Sharon Wu | The Poly Post

The power balance between an NBA player and their front office needs to be balanced

By Noel Sanchez, Sept. 6, 2022

In 2022, freedom is expected in every workplace. As long as the job gets done and respect is shown, problems should not occur. The NBA is no different, with players working hard every day to ensure that they are meeting the needs of their team and earning every dollar on their contracts.

Contracts ensure that athletes are bound to said teams for the duration they signed, barring a trade or waive. However, recent seasons have shown that players will demand to be moved or be moved by the front office without any warning.

I believe these trends negatively impact the reputations of both the players and the league. As an NBA fan myself, it seems as though there is a growing void between executives and their athletes, and it takes away from the entertainment of the sport.

Most recently, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have been the main discussions of the 2022 offseason. Following James Harden’s departure and a rollercoaster season, Durant and Irving requested trades from the Brooklyn Nets. Nothing has happened just yet, but new reports come out every day with the latest offers teams have for them.

Specifically for Durant, the Nets are asking for a large return, and suitors are not having it. I’m glad they haven’t budged because it would be a bad look, seeing yet another superstar get his way after signing such a big contract.

Sharon Wu | The Poly Post

Led by Chris Paul, the NBA player’s association works every few years with league executives on the collective bargaining agreement. This agreement sets the terms and conditions for everybody who signs a contract with the league and keeps record on how much money everyone can make. Lockouts occur until an agreement is made, and players have made great strides towards higher wages recently.

The NBA makes billions of dollars each year off of television deals, endorsements, and jersey sales. Lockouts ensure players get their fair share of these profits from commissioners. Players  have also been able to implement more incentives, clauses and bonuses in their contracts.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the NBA has a problem on their hands. Multiple superstars secured record-breaking maximum contracts these past few years and demanded to be traded soon after.

James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers was in two different trades in 2021 and 2022. After signing a 4 year, $171 million deal with the Houston Rockets, Harden put his foot down and maneuvered a trade to the Brooklyn Nets. A loss in the Conference Finals and off-court drama surrounding his teammate, Kyrie Irving, led to Harden forcing his way out not too long after and joining the 76ers. I wasn’t accustomed to seeing a player of James Harden’s status be the center of two blockbuster trades in back-to-back years.

I am all for player empowerment and being able to take one’s professional journey into their own hands, And there have been many players whose careers have failed due to committing to a franchise that never set them up for on-court success.

If they are unhappy with their current situation, it is great for them to voice it to the front office and figure out what can be done moving forward. However, if a team grants players astronomical contracts and they still want out after just a few years, players must maintain a level of professionalism.

When Harden first began expressing his wants out of Houston, his efforts on the court dropped. His shooting percentages plunged significantly, he got into scuffles with teammates at practice and he appeared to be very out of shape.

However, both sides must be considered. NBA superstars have taken this approach when making career decisions in large part thanks to certain teams’ treatment of players in the past.

With the NBA being the biggest basketball association in the world, I would think front offices would keep their athlete’s best interest in mind. Even if they must make a tough decision and part ways with personnel, communication should be made a priority. Unfortunately, almost every offseason, stories come out about how players learn through social media that they will be wearing a new jersey.

Tyrese Haliburton, a former Sacramento Kings player, fell ill to this treatment just last season when the team dealt Haliburton to the Indiana Pacers. Haliburton finished top five in rookie of the year voting his first season, and the struggling Kings viewed it as a building block . He was one of the few players who made it known that he wanted to change the culture in that franchise. Therefore, it took the NBA world by storm when news broke that he was traded to the Pacers and didn’t receive notice until just 30 minutes before.

Kings fans loved Haliburton when he played there, and it hurt the whole city when this move was announced. He is not the first player to embrace the city of Sacramento and still get traded due to business decisions. Haliburton continued to speak on his shock from the news in the weeks following, even after joining his new team, and that showed me just how harsh the owners can be.

This is one reason why superstars in the NBA are pursuing their wants this way. The professional sports world can be tough, and players have decided they will take on the same business mindset that executives have had for years.

This is a problem on both sides. In the next CBA, I believe a middle ground must be formed, and mutual respect should be established. With the way both parties are acting, another lockout could be well on the way. As an avid fan, I believe I speak for everybody when I say that is the last thing fans want.

Feature image by Sharon Wu. 

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