10 NBA players who turned their back on their franchises

Kawhi Leonard, Paul George
Kawhi Leonard, Paul George / Harry How/GettyImages
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More than any other sport, the NBA's stars can dictate where they play. That makes the spectacle of star players demanding a trade or leaving in free agency seem almost commonplace nowadays. In fact, there have been dozens of instances in the last 30 years where a star has either demanded a trade or left in free agency, turning their back on the franchise that drafted them or helped turn them into a star.

While players have the right to choose where they want to play, franchises and fans also have a right to feel some type of way about a star player choosing to play elsewhere and potentially blowing the team up in the process. With that being said, let's take a look at 10 players who turned their backs on their franchises.

10) Shaquille O'Neal

Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal was the prize of the 1992 NBA Draft and proved to be a huge get for the still-new Orlando Magic. He immediately became a massive star, helping turn the Magic into a must-watch team, especially after they traded for the draft rights to Penny Hardaway. For three seasons, Shaq and Penny were a dynamic duo, even leading the Magic to the NBA Finals in their second year together.

That proved to be short-lived, however. They soon became jealous of one another and when Shaq hit unrestricted free agency, Orlando low-balled him, opening the door for the Los Angeles Lakers and GM Jerry West to swoop in. They signed him to a 7-year, $120 million deal—the largest ever at the time—ending Shaq's time with the Magic.

Shaq leaving Orlando spurred owners to push for restricted free agency for players selected in the first round in the subsequent collective bargaining agreement. That ensures that the team won't lose a young player for nothing.

In fact, if a young player turns out to be good, then it usually means that they won't actually hit unrestricted free agency until their eighth season. Shaq, for his part, has expressed regret about leaving.

That didn't ultimately do Orlando any good and they spent a decade or more trying to recover. They made some good moves, including acquiring Tracy McGrady and then-superstar Grant Hill, only for his body to suddenly turn into glass.

Unfortunately, they gave up Ben Wallace in the sign-and-trade that brought Hill to Orlando, only for him to become one of the greatest defensive players of his era. They nearly recovered by almost signing Tim Duncan, but then-coach Doc Rivers torpedoed that.

It wasn't until 2004, when they drafted Dwight Howard, that things began to change for the better. Shaq did recently have his jersey retired by the Magic, but there are likely still some hurt feelings for some longtime Orlando fans who can't stop wondering what would've happened if he stayed.