Loyalty in Sports

Adam Orozco, Writer ; Photographer

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Loyalty in the sports world is a hard and complicated subject.

Many players from a young age value the Tom Bradys, Derek Jeters, and Kobe Bryants of the world, wishing they could be playing for a single franchise their whole career, hoping they quickly become superstars, fan favorites, and bring back as many championship trophies as possible to a city that shows them all love even through the ups and downs of that individual’s career.

Things are never that easy.

Also, an organization’s core values are truly tested as they must face the athletes on business and personal sides. Both fight for what they want which often leads to disloyalty and departure.

You just don’t see the Kobe Bryants playing for the Los Angeles Lakers anymore. He spent his whole 20 year career playing for Lakers and becoming one of the best players in NBA history. Bryant was also a major part of their five NBA championships.

Derek Jeter in New York, who was a 14-time MLB all-star, also brought back five championships to the city.

They are respected by millions for staying loyal to the city and the franchise their whole careers, but that’s just not reality now-a-days. The concept now seems old and outdated as it becomes more rare to have loyal players stay still in one franchise.

Things have changed.

As players are mostly driven by money and are irritated by disagreements or situations they dislike. After all, sports is a business and athletes have to look out for themselves and their families, which in my opinion is the most important part.

Even though owners and scouts count loyalty as one of the best qualities a player can have, it eventually gets thrown to the side, because at the end of the day, organizations will always make decisions that will benefit the franchise in the best way possible.

In sports, each year players have one goal in mind and that is to win a championship. Recently in the last couple years, many NBA players have done the “sin” of leaving their respected teams to link up with other All-Star type players to compete for championships.

Lebron James stood in front of national television to announce he was leaving his hometown of Cleveland where he played for the Cavaliers to take his talent and join a stacked Miami Heat team after he become a free agent in the summer of 2010.

The sports world went crazy as every Lebron and cavalier fan felt betrayed to lose their hometown hero. Fans went to the extent of burning his jersey, calling his foul names, and questioning everything about him especially his loyalty after that decision.

While many felt Lebron James was inconsiderate of his hometown, he technically wasn’t disloyal as he had become a unrestricted free agent. And as the great competitor he is, he was looking out for himself as he wanted to win a championships.

Ultimately, as stated by Dan Grunfeld on SBnation.com, “[James] was a grown man with preferences, priorities, and a family.” He united with one of his best friends, Dwayne Wade, enjoyed the Miami lifestyle, and went on to win two NBA championships in 2012 and 2013.

James eventually reunited with his hometown team in Cleveland in the summer of 2014 and has had a rocky relationship with fans and teammates since then.

After James’ decision, many NBA players followed.

Ray Allen, who had spent much of his career in Boston, chose to join James and Dwayne Wade in Miami where they won a championship together. Allen immediately received backlash and was called a “traitor” and “sell out” just like James.

Also, not long ago, Kevin Durant pulled a move most players would never think of doing. He played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he had become one of the best players in the NBA, including winning the “Most Valuable Player” in the 2013 -2014 season, and was loved by the people of Oklahoma City tremendously.

After losing to the Golden State Warriors after holding a 3-1 series lead in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, he became a free agent. During the off season, he signed with the Golden State Warriors, a team of All Star players that had just beaten him.

Nowadays it takes a certain type of person to stay loyal to a franchise.

In my opinion, athletes are labeled as disloyal and cold-hearted too easily based on expectations provided by fans and media. Even though fans get upset of departures of their favorite players, I feel fans should not be so quick to judge the athletes based on personal preferences or disagreement between the organization and athlete.

Players can’t make every fan happy or respect his decision because most fans will always be biased towards their team.