After the deadline of  NBA trades and transactions 2017-2018 season, the most shocking news must be that Blake Griffin was traded to Detroit Pistons from Los Angeles Clippers which is the first team he joined NBA since his rookie year on 2009. Meanwhile, “Sports is a business” is becoming the hot topic again discussing in the league and media, especially several star players, including LeBron James and Kevin Durant, have publicly shared their opinions on the media about this news and the problem of loyalty in NBA.

Team’re not obligated to be loyal to players

Blake Griffin told to ESPN after he was traded to Detroit Pistons (Feldman, 2018):

“Basketball is a business, the NBA is a business, and they made a decision,” Griffin told ESPN. “The only thing I just wish I had known or had the opportunity to talk to somebody beforehand. Finding out through Twitter, through other people is a tough way to find out when you’ve been with a franchise for so long. But at the end of the day, basketball is a business, and I want to play where a team wants me. And that’s why I’m excited about being here.”

Blake Griffin was named the NBA Rookie of the year, own the NBA Slam Dunk Draft, Blake Griffin has spent his entire eight years NBA career in LA Contest, has been a five-time NBA All-Star and a four-time All-NBA selection, as a basketball player those honors prove that Blake Griffin is NBA star. As the first overall player was selected by Los Angeles Clippers in the 2009 NBA, Blake Griffin has spent his eight-year NBA career in LA, moreover, last summer before the opening of NBA 2017-2018 season Blake Griffin just signed a five-year contract, $171-million contract to stay with Clippers. However, because the team record only got 25-24 at mid-season which is not the expectation to the team management and Blake Griffin struggles in injury problem in the past few years, Clippers decided to trade him in order to the future of the team and abandon the burden of his big contact. Although, Blake Griffin still can provide All-Star numbers.

Of course, it isn’t a isolated incident of team to trade players without consultation with player. In the last summer off-season, Boston Celtics agreed the deal with Cleveland Cavaliers that send Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, Jae Crowder,  and the Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round pick to Cleveland in exchange for All-Star player Kyrie Irving. Isaiah Thomas as 5-foot-9-inch point guard player, in his second year in Boston, he became the Boston Celtics’ hero in the NBA 2016-2017 season, he contributed his career-best, was elected 2 consecutive Eastern Conference All-Star, won the All-NBA Team honors, and led the Celtics to the top seed in the Eastern Conference by season’s end, even after sister’s death on the eve of the playoffs he was still leading the team to the Eastern Conference Finals with injuries, while his right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear were re-aggravation during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland, he had to miss the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Isaiah Thomas tears up before the game of playoff series-opener against Chicago Bulls at TD Bank Garden after his sister dies in car accident source NYDailyNews

Isaiah Thomas had repeatedly show his love to the city, even he expressed disappointment and hurt after trading to Cleveland. However, Danny Ainge, the Celtics general manager, appeared on the WEEI(public broadcasting) before the season-opening matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and gave his opinion for trading Isaiah Thomas.(Conway, 2017)

Danny Ainge on the WEEI:

“I don’t know what we owe him,” Ainge said. “We gave him an opportunity while he was here.”

In essence, the team’s practice is nothing wrong on trading player according to relevant rules and policies. NBA Team’re not obligated to be loyal to players. However, the problem is teams and mass expect players be loyalty in the business game, and  require players be responsible for something that contract doesn’t have.

Loyalty is fiction

Why mass think loyalty is so important to NBA, because mass have witnessed players as legends and heroes spend their entire career with one team. Kobe Bryant(Los Angeles Lakers), Jerry West(Los Angeles Lakers), Magic Johnson((Los Angeles Lakers)), Tim Duncan(San Antonio Spurs), Dirk Nowitzki(Dallas Mavericks), Larry Bird(Boston Celtics), Bill Russell(Boston Celtics), all those NBA superstars contribute their entire career to one team and become the object of worship to people, meanwhile stay with one team had become the moral standard to restrict players. However, even if the God of Basketball – Micheal Jordan, the King – LeBron James, or Shaquille O’Neal played for different team, but it doesn’t lessen their greatness. Throughout NBA history, only very few players can play their entire career with one team. Moreover, loyalty should be mutual, if the team owner don’t be loyal to players, so don’t expect players be loyalty. Loyalty is fiction, NBA is business.

Maybe trading players just one of steps for the owner of the team to reach the goal. However, trading means a lot to players, especially players have suddenly been told you will be the transaction chip. Trading means players have to move to another city, have to find a new house, their family need to adapt a new environment, their children have to transfer. And as we know, NBA basketball player as influential people in the city, they will actively participate community building, and they usually have been part of community in that city, yet they have to give up the community that they love and they contribute because of trading. Therefore, players are passivity and almost do not have choice in the NBA contract. So why when player become free agents and have options to make their best choice, people condemn players that no loyalty, why people require players to sacrifice their won benefits for the team interests.

As Ray Allen assert, “Why is it that we are disloyal for going to a team we feel will be best for us but their is no outrage towards the teams that trade us. Fans kill us but when a team does it, it’s just business. Smh!!!” Ray as an experienced person, he understands that plight, as he left the Boston Celtics to sign with the Miami Heat in 2012, and he won the 2012-2013 NBA Champion with Heat. However, that let to Ray Allen is called Judas by sorts among Celtics fans and many of his former Celtics teammates. (Chiari, 2017)

Ray Allen: “There Is Not Loyalty In Sports”

As mentioned above, NBA players are active participant in improve community of the city, build a relationship with fans. However, fans often attack players after the trading, such as abusing players, even their family in public place and social media, or burning players’ jerseys in social media for expressing anger.

Fans burn Isaiah Thomas jerseys after Kyrie Irving trade
Fans burn Kyrie Irving jerseys after he left

Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving did give everything to the team, they was playing with injury, but after trading some fans forget what they did for the team, they burn their jerseys and rebuke them that no loyalty to the team.

Time to Stop Expecting Loyalty in NBA

LeBron James reacts to Blake Griffin trade

As we are talking “NBA is a business” over and over again, the nature of this problem is interest, it is the wrestle of interests between the team owner, NBA league and NBA players. However, players still are the weakest comparing the team owner and NBA league.

According to Corrigan points out, “Sports and sports media’s rich cultural meanings and massive consumer interest factor prominently in these ideological and material processes. New media technologies destabilize media’s role in wealth and power asymmetries” (Corrigan, 2014) As in this article, all sources are come from internet and social media, we can see new media is helping players to fight for rights and interest in the contract. However, class and corporate still are powerful in controlling media through collaborating with (sports) media. For example, “Commercial sports’ influence over content has also been institutionalized in the broadcast contract’s “no-criticism clause”.” (Corrigan, 2014) The ream owner can leaks the news about trading players and creates scandals through cooperative media to spread, so that to rationalization what the team did. But as players’ commercial value. specially All-Star players,  become higher and higher, the value of players is not only display on the field, but also appear in many other areas. Brands and advertisers as supporter behind players to help them fight with team owner because players associated with profit of brands and advertisers.

Finally, NBA is a business, loyalty is good, but it is fiction. Team’re not obligated to be loyal to players, so don’t expectation of players be loyalty to the team. Business is the nature of the game. Players just try to gain equality in the industrial relations., because they have to be responsible to themselves and their family.


Corrigan, T. F. (2014). The Political Economy of Sports and New Media. In A.C. Billings & M. Hardin (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Sport and New Media (pp.43-54). New York: Routledge.

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Chiari, M. (2017, August 25). Caron Butler, Ray Allen Discuss Loyalty Expectations After Kyrie Irving Trade. Retrieved from

Conway, T. (2017, October 17). Danny Ainge on Isaiah Thomas Trade to Cavaliers: ‘I Don’t Know What We Owe Him’. Retrieved from

Dubs, D. D. (2017, September 07). Loyalty, according to Isaiah Thomas “aint nothing to count on,” but Kevin Durant already knew that. Retrieved from

Feldman, D. (2018, February 01). Blake Griffin: ‘Tough’ to learn of trade from Twitter, not Clippers. Retrieved from

Healy, J. (2017, April 16). Celtics fans chant ‘MVP’ for Isaiah Thomas day after sister dies. Retrieved from

NBA Twitter. (2018, January 29). Reports: LA Clippers agree to trade Blake Griffin to Detroit Pistons. Retrieved from

Yang, N. (2018, March 27). Ray Allen says loyalty doesn’t exist in the NBA. Retrieved from