Let’s play a little game. I’ll describe two scenarios, and you tell me which one is more messed up. Before we begin, let’s be clear on something: The NBA is fixed on many levels. They’re a multi-gazillion dollar business, and if you think they don’t have their best money interest in mind, then you’re either really naive, or you haven’t been paying close enough attention. The following list is just a few obvious examples of when the fix was in:
1985: The Knicks get the #1 pick in the draft, Patrick Ewing.
1992: The Magic get the #1 pick (Shaq) in the draft when there were questions and doubts about whether or not putting a team in Orlando was even a good idea.
1995: Michael Jordan gets suspended… errr… I mean leaves to play minor league baseball as a cover up for his gambling issues that were on the verge of getting him Pete Rosed right out of the game.
2000: The Lakers 37-16 free throw advantage against the Trailblazers in the Western Conference Finals.
2002: The Lakers are gifted the playoff series over the Kings (video below), most notably in game 6, when they were awarded 40 free throws overall, 27 in the fourth quarter alone. A game in which referee Tim Donaghy later admitted to helping fix in 2007.
2003: The Cavs get the #1 pick (home town boy LeBron) in 2003, and then handed more #1 picks after he left.
2006: Dwyane Wade shoots 97 free throws in 6 games against Dallas. In game 5 alone, he shot 25 free throws, the same amount as the entire Dallas team.
2007: The Tim Donaghy (NBA Referee) gambling scandal that landed him in prison for 15 months. A scandal in which he also admitted helping to to fix the previously mentioned Lakers/Kings series by order of commissioner David Stern.
2008: The Bulls get the #1 pick (hometown boy Derrick Rose) despite only a 1.7% chance.
2012: The New Orleans Hornets get the first pick after the NBA nixed the Chris Paul to the Lakers trade.
2012: The ridiculous free throw advantages the Heat were given against the Knicks in the playoffs. The 28-5 advantage in the first half of game 1 alone and LeBron’s flopping was so blatantly obvious that multiple NBA players actually tweeted about it. Klay Thompson said he’d “never respect floppers.” Patrick Patterson wondered, “What kind of league are we becoming?” You know the game has turned into a joke when at halftime “and the Oscar goes to” is trending on Twitter.
2016: Dikembe Mutombo congratulates the 76ers for getting the first pick in a tweet 4 hours before the lottery.
These are just a few examples in a ridiculously long laundry list, and they always seem to coincidentally favor the bigger market or star power teams that would benefit the NBA, both prestigiously and financially. So make no mistakes, the NBA is rigged on some levels.
But let’s get back to the game. I’ll give you the following two scenarios, and you tell me which one is worse:
Scenario #1: A player gets drafted out of college to a REALLY bad NBA team. Nobody has any idea he’ll become one of the top 3 players in the league, but he works his ass off to become just that. In addition to becoming one of the top 3 players in the league, he also lifts that very franchise up from the dead and turns them into a legit title-caliber team, one in which the NBA conspired against to deny them a fair chance at a title. He exceeded all expectations by playing above and beyond what anyone could’ve ever expected of him coming out of college. When his contract was up, he did what every player not named Wade or Duncan do in this day and age of basketball, and accepted the best available job offer on the table.
Scenario #2: A kid in high school is hyped up as the best basketball player in the world. We were told he was going to take the NBA by storm and become the best player the sport has ever seen. Already ridiculous, and I haven’t even gotten started. The NBA, as they have repeatedly done, rigs the lottery draft so he can join his hometown team. He hasn’t even played an NBA game yet, and the NBA (and HIMSELF, I might add) are already declaring him God, and promising the league, the franchise, and the city all sorts of ridiculously presumptuous things. He then falls wayyyy short of what was expected of him. People even started to question his competitive fire. Even his biggest fans and supporters. He failed in nearly every aspect of what was expected of him. He then bails out on the very franchise, city, and fans he promised so much to in order to latch onto an established winning franchise just so he could ride coattails to a championship.
Now you tell me, which scenario is worse? The guy who exceeded expectations by a longshot and lifted a franchise and city out of the grave, despite having to combat a conspiring NBA on top of his opponents? Or the guy who has been catered to by the NBA his entire career, yet not only still fell incredibly short of expectations, but turned his back on the very city, franchise, and fans that he made so many promises to?
Media and fans alike are getting all over Kevin Durant for his decision to join the Golden State Warriors. The comparisons to what LeBron did when he left for Miami are flying all over the internet, our radios, and our televisions. The problem is, it’s not even close to the same thing. Durant exceeded expectations. He gave his heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears to a franchise that was left for dead, and he lifted them up into a signifanct force only to be denied by the NBA. The big money was in a Warriors/Cavs finals this year, so the NBA did everything they could to make sure that happened. They let the Warriors get away with murder to mount that series comeback against OKC. Draymond Green should’ve been suspended, paving the way for OKC to advance, but he got a free pass for acting like a straight thug… but yet, all he did was call LeBron a pussy and he got suspended in the Cavs series. Why? Because it was in the best (money) interest of the NBA for the Warriors to advance past the Thunder. It was also in their best money interest (by way of publicity and buzz) for LeBron and the Cavs to beat the Warriors. It’s what they wanted YEARS ago when they fixed the draft for him to go to Cleveland in the first place, but LeBron failed to live up to expectations and deliver.
The NBA does what the NBA needs to do to keep itself thriving and as lucrative as possible. Even the mighty Jordan got his share of phantom calls and help from the refs to all but guarantee the best possible scenarios the NBA wanted and needed for sport popularity and financial gain. Make no mistakes, the NBA is a business, and businesses do what they have to do to succeed and make money, even if that means making teams like the Kings, Thunder, or various others their sacrificial lambs. So don’t hate the player, hate the game. Durant is not a villain. He did more than was ever expected of him for the unfortunate (for him) city and franchise he was drafted into. When his time was up, he took the best available job offered to him. Who can blame him? It’s not like he was appointed the King before he ever even stepped on an NBA court, had the NBA in his corner rigging things in his favor, then failed to deliver anything even close to what was expected of him before turning his back on the franchise and city that went all in on him. On the contrary, he over-achieved and turned a struggling franchise into a powerhouse. NBA and Thunder fans should appreciate that, not criticize it. When his time was up, he took the best available job offered to him… something any one of us would do.