When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat in 2010, I hated it. I hated everything about it from the ill conceived "decision" with Jim Gray to the nausea-inducing first press conference in Miami. For those four years, I had two favorite NBA teams: the Lakers and the other team playing the Heat.
When Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder to join a 73 win Golden State team in 2017, I blanched. It was like hearing Bill Gates had just won Powerball. The Warriors were a Sherman Tank and the rest of the NBA was armed with spitballs. And the last two NBA Finals worked out pretty much like that.
So that begat the Thunder adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony with Russell Westbrook and Houston teaming Chris Paul with James Harden. And later this summer, another NBA super team will be formed somewhere.
And I say bring it on.
Lopsided deals have always been made in the NBA. Red Auerbach sent the Celtics' seventh overall pick, Ed Macauley, and Cliff Hagan to the St. Louis Hawks for the second pick in the 1956 NBA Draft. Celtics owner Walter Brown then called Rochester Royals owner Lee Harrison for a deal for the number one pick. The Royals agreed to select Si Green, a guard from Duquesne with the first pick and Brown agreed to send the Ice Capades, which he also owned, for a week long show in Rochester. The Celtics then selected Bill Russell second overall.
In 1996, Jerry West sent his starting center, Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for their first round selection, the 13th overall, high school guard Kobe Bryant. Seven days later, Lakers inked a seven-year, $120 million contract with free-agent center Shaquille O'Neal.
Smart front offices still win, but in today’s NBA, the players are spearheading the deals. They know that to be considered as the best in history, they have to win multiple championships. Their legacies depend on it.
It's why Tom Brady wanted to get to five Super Bowl titles to best his childhood idol Joe Montana. It's why Tiger Woods looked at Jack Nicholas' 18 PGA major titles as his personal benchmark. It's why Michael Jordan mercilessly teases his friends Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing every opportunity he can.
The ring is the thing. And it doesn't matter how they got it, or with whom, or what other people think of how or with whom. So I can't blame any player for wanting to maximize their chances to win. I won't always like it, but I understand it. I totally get it.
Because the alternative, never having won, is much worse.