When it comes to switching teams voluntarily, LeBron James may be one of the most knowledgeable on the subject.
James took it upon himself to change the landscape of the NBA forever when he decided to make a move to Miami alongside Chris Bosh to form the 'Big 3' with Dwyane Wade, changing the way superstars thought about free agency. It wasn't about getting the most money or staying loyal to a franchise anymore, it was about forming the best team you could to win championships, and the likes of Kevin Durant have followed in LeBron's footsteps.
James copped a lot of heat for 'The Decision,' and was labeled everything from 'unloyal' to a 'villain' for ditching the Cleveland Cavaliers and forming a superteam with Miami. So why is it different when a team trades one of their franchise stars?
That's exactly the conversation that arose when the Clippers' Blake Griffin was promptly traded to the Detroit from Los Angeles, only a mere six months after signing a max deal worth $173 million over five years. Before signing the contract, the Clippers management tried to sell Griffin on staying in Los Angeles for the rest of his career, even hosting a fake jersey retirement ceremony in his honor to show what the future would hold if he resigned. Then only six months afterwards, the Clips decided to trade away Griffin to start fresh.
James was asked about the whole situation, and loyalty in the NBA as a whole, and went in on the Clippers.
"When a player gets traded, [management] was doing what's best for the franchise, but when a player decides to leave, he's not loyal, he's a snake, he's not commited. That's the narrative of how it goes... I know that firsthand."
Here's LeBron's full response to the question.
Another example of this blatant hypocrisy is the Isaiah Thomas situation in Boston.
Thomas, like Griffin, gave his all to a franchise and fanbase that loved him dearly, and he was in a great position for his career, but as soon as a better opportunity came knocking, the Celtics didn't hesitate to ship Thomas off, with no one batting an eyelid. But when LeBron and Durant both have opportunities to improve their careers and legacies by signing with a better team to win rings, they're hated upon for the rest of their tenure.
Hopefully, the Griffin situation has shone some light on how NBA front offices treat their players like pawns in a chess game, so players can stop being chastised for wanting to control their own career paths.