An anonymous NBA GM spoke with Isaac Chotiner of The New Yorker to explain why player empowerment is the worst thing to happen to professional sports. He’s probably right.
“Player empowerment is a catchall for the fact that the league has done a terrible job of empowering teams. The players have all of the leverage in every situation. I think it’s the worst thing that ever happened to professional sports on all levels.”
LeBron unapologetic about “The Decision”, believes it helped athletes take control of their careers https://t.co/sAWnE6K32B— Sportando (@Sportando) May 31, 2021
Of course, this GM feels this way because control has shifted towards players ever since LeBron’s infamous “decision.” That’s fair — yet we should still recognize why this happened. At the time, the roster around LeBron wasn’t getting any better, so he believed the only way he could improve his chances of a championship was to leave. Plenty basketball fans compared that move to Michael Jordan staying put and losing to Detroit until Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman came along. But what if those players never made their way to Chicago? Does MJ pack his bags for the Lakers or somewhere else? It’s a hypothetical question we’ll never know the answer to because the Bulls never pushed him that far.
But back to this GM’s point that player empowerment is the worst thing to happen to professional sports — he’s right. It stinks that every star athlete who struggles to win immediately packs his bags for the greener grass on the other side. The ole “it’s not me, it’s this team” excuse.
Ultimately, no GM or team owner can convince anyone to stay. It’s just a big game of musical chairs, and it’s costing the league fan interest. Fans who used to cheer for the NBA have no clue who’ll be on the team come next year because of all the roster turnover. It’s a joke.
What’s the fix?
The NBA already has financial penalties in place for leaving an organization after your five years under a rookie contract. Those max contracts diminish significantly, yet it seems players don’t care. They’d rather win and build their brand earning less money than sign with a bad franchise for more guaranteed money.
These agents are convincing them that winning is the best path to money, and that mindset is destroying basketball. Now everyone cares more about their brand than their team. That’s never going to help the product of a league.
Did LeBron’s decision ruin the NBA? In a way, yeah. It showed players that sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side. LeBron went to Miami and finally won his coveted championship — twice. He got what he wanted. Now, every player thinks he’s one decision away from immortality.
But it’s worth mentioning that if LeBron didn’t do this, someone else would have at some point. Players in the past like Kevin Garnett and Charles Barkley used the trade market to their advantage. LeBron James just did it a bit differently, and the league has paid for it. Will commissioner Adam Silver do something about this? Don’t count on it — super teams pay the bills come playoff time. They always have.