The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a star driven league. There can only be ten players on the court at once – five on each team – so the value of each player is very high. NBA superstars have always connected with fans on a different level than other sports superstars; think of Michael Jordan in Chicago, Larry Bird in Boston or Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. All of these people connected with their fans on another level, becoming part of their daily life.
The days of staying on one team for a player’s whole career are quickly fading away.
Ben Simmons was traded for James Harden after the most unbelievable turn of events.
To explain, I need to give a little background on this trade situation. Simmons was drafted number one to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2016 and quickly became very polarizing. Simmons was expected to be the next great player in the 76ers’ franchise, but because of his lack of three point shooting, he never really worked out.
After years of trade rumors and a particularly bad playoffs, Simmons was sick of it. Simmons, who was still on a two-year contract with the 76ers, claimed he was no longer going to play for them and demanded a trade.
The NBA proceeded to fine Simmons millions of dollars for every game he skipped. Simmons stayed strong throughout this year, never playing for the 76ers and getting what he wanted. A player who was still on a two-year contract managed to Player empowerment himself out of his team.
James Harden was a top five player in the league for years on the Houston Rockets. After years, the Rockets didn’t have enough to help Harden win, so he demanded a trade. Harden was also on contract with the Rockets, but instead of not playing, he gained at least 15 pounds of weight and clearly slacked on the court.
Harden traded to the Brooklyn Nets, where he played one year with the Nets and then demanded a trade again. In two years, one of the best players in the league was moved twice, which is unheard of in the NBA. This led us to the current day, where Harden was traded to the 76ers for Simmons.
Player empowerment started early on in the NBA. The Superstars of old were also moving teams.
Basketball was changed forever when Wilt Chamberlain told the 76ers to trade him after their loss to the Boston Celtics. Chamberlain wanted to play in Los Angeles, and so the Los Angeles Lakers and 76ers finalized a trade in 1968. The trade was horrible for the 76ers, getting Darrall Imhoff, Archie Clark and Jerry Chambers for the Big Dipper.
The next notable NBA superstar to ask for a trade was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was done with living in Milwaukee and playing for the Bucks, so he demanded a trade in 1975. Abdul-Jabbar wanted to play for a big market and when the New York Knicks messed it up, the Lakers were next in line. The Lakers would trade nickels and dimes for one of the top three greatest basketball players to ever live. This was the start of the Showtime Lakers, a team that would dominate the NBA for many years.
The free agency era of basketball started in the late 1970s and is still going on today. This era is basically where an unhappy superstar player has one or two year’s left on their contract so they tell their organization to either trade them now or they will not resign in free agency. If a player leaves in free agency the organization loses that player and gets nothing back.
The tension between the Portland Trail Blazers and Bill Walton would be at an all time high when Walton sued the Blazers medical staff. At that point the Trail Blazers had no choices but to trade Walton to the San Diego Clippers.
The NBA always had noticeable player movement, but in recent history, it has become an increasingly different situation. The days of a superstar staying on one team for a player’s whole career are quickly fading away – many people credit this change to Lebron James.
Player movement has a lot of fans concerned; younger fans are starting to just follow one player and not a whole franchise. I don’t know if this is good or bad for the NBA, but it’s definitely interesting. There is talk that player empowerment is horrible for basketball and it’s ruining the NBA, but in my opinion, player empowerment is much more positive than negative. Player empowerment started in the early stages of the NBA when there were very few African American players allowed in the NBA.
Joe Monkiewicz can be contacted