On Monday, a bombshell dropped in the NBA, with Kevin Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to sign with the Golden State Warriors.
Durant, who led the Thunder to a 3-1 series lead against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals only to lose the final three games of the series, has just made an incredibly controversial decision that highlights what is the biggest problem in the NBA today.
The players have too much power, plain and simple.
Superstars in the NBA are absolutely infuriating. In today’s league, these guys have no sense of loyalty. The stars only want the quickest, and easiest route to a championship possible. They’ll conspire years in advance to join forces with their best friends in other locations, they care nothing about digging deeper within themselves and overcoming other great teams.
The logos on their jerseys and the cities they play for don’t matter in the least. If I were a fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers or Miami Heat, the titles won by either team would feel hollow and cheapened. It wouldn’t feel like my franchise had just won a title as much as it was just a convenient location for LeBron James and his buddies to win their individual rings.
Just look at the state that the Thunder are in right now. With Durant gone, there isn’t even a thought of building around Russell Westbrook. Instead, his name has instantly become the hottest in trade talks around the league, and the prevailing mentality is “why would he stay?”
Thunder fans have gone from being one win away from the NBA Finals, to staring out into a dark abyss with little to no hope for their future. All because the face of their franchise chose to take the quick and easy way out, and abandoned ship.
That to me is the biggest problem that exists in the NBA. It isn’t tanking. Its the fact that franchises and their fans are constantly at the mercy of some of the biggest divas that sports has to offer.
Just look at what’s gone on in the last five years alone.
Denver Nuggets fans knew years in advance that Carmelo Anthony was going to force his way to the New York Knicks. The only question was whether or not the franchise could get anything in return for him. A guy as talented as Dwight Howard, who just signed with the Atlanta Hawks, has now spent his prime across four different franchises. And of course, the most infamous example of all was television special that announced LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach, “The Decision”.
Durant going to the Warriors is the latest example of this, and its bad for the NBA in so many ways.
The Warriors were obviously already a contender without Durant. I’m not sure that his presence really makes them that much better than the record-setting bunch they were this season. With the Thunder in ruins, the league also now has one less contending team on the playing field. Sure, the idea of Stephen Curry and Durant together is extremely intriguing, but at the end of the day its not something that needed to happen.
This kind of thing has got to stop.
The NBA owners need to do something to combat the superstars, and even out the balance of power in the league again.
If Adam Silver can step in to stop the Sixers from tanking, whether it be through trying to draw up last-minute lottery reforms, or forcing the organization to hire Jerry Colangelo to essentially force Sam Hinkie out, why can’t he do something to give franchises some protection against their stars jumping bolting?
Plain and simple, its time for the NBA to implement a franchise tag system. Stars bailing on their teams has just gotten way out of hand in the last five years, and league franchises owe it to themselves and their fans to have some method of protecting themselves from being held hostage by elite players every time unrestricted free agency comes about.
I truly applaud a guy like Kobe Bryant, who even in his last season had no desire to go latch on to another franchise for one last playoff run. Say what you will about Bryant, but respect that the man never once considered taking shortcuts and leaving the Lakers. Bryant may very well be the last star of that caliber that we see play out his entire prime with one team.
It’s scary to think about the direction that this league is going in. You can only hope things change by the time Ben Simmons and some of the Sixers’ young pieces are up for free agency.