The Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan trade proves the business side of sports can get ugly
Business is often harsh. The business of sports involves selling and trading away players’ contracts, which creates life-altering changes for players.
Written by Noah Goad
Toronto Raptors’ guard DeMar DeRozan has been the face of the franchise in recent years and has helped lead his team to five-straight postseason appearances, including a one-seed finish to the 2017-2018 season. However, the four-time All Star’s continued loyalty to the franchise did not stop the Raptors’ front office from trading him.
In a deal that sent San Antonio Spurs’ forward Kawhi Leonard to Toronto in exchange for a package that included DeRozan, it has been noted that both Leonard and DeRozan are quite disgruntled over the trade.
Business is business
With both parties unhappy in this recent trade, it provokes an important question: Is the business side of sports too harsh?
In short, yes. But business is harsh.
The reality is that sports are a business, and the business world is often ruthless and unforgiving. Sports franchises aren’t much different than business in other industries. Often times businesses have to make tough financial decisions that can include budget cuts and layoffs.
Franchises are driven and fuelled by money, which can often put executives in tough predicaments, especially when player’s livelihoods are at risk. At the end of the day, the executives have to do what they believe is right for the franchise, much like leaders of corporations have to operate based on decisions that will satisfy stakeholders.
It’s happening all over
Let’s go back last year, when the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics pulled off a blockbuster trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Celtics and Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers. Thomas was fresh off leading the Eastern Conference in scoring and taking the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, after the deal, the Celtics secured themselves a younger, more promising player in Kyrie Irving and avoided paying Thomas a max-contract after he had stated that the Celtics better “bring out the Brinks truck.” After that trade, the Celtics landed in the Eastern Conference finals in 2018 and appear to be the favourites to come out of the East in 2019, yet are still below the salary cap in the NBA.
Players are on the move more than ever
Players like Kevin Durant and LeBron James have been criticized for bouncing from team-to-team, but with the amount of franchise players being traded in recent memory, free agency may be one of the few ways for the player to control their own futures.
Durant and James aren’t the only ones moving around. Whether it has been through trades or free-agent moves, 16 of the 26 NBA All Stars from the 2016 All Star game are no longer with that same team.
In short, yes, the business of anything is harsh. Franchises shouldn’t be knock for dealing key players to their franchise if it’s for the good of the team, much like players shouldn’t be bashed for requesting a trade or leaving via free agency. At the end of the day, business is business.
However, business’ nature is creating a side effect that’s ravaging the NBA; it is diminishing franchise loyalty among players.
Prior to this generation of NBA talent, it’s quite easy to name great players who spent the majority, if not all, of their careers with one team (Kobe Bryant, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, to name a few). Today, most fans would be hard pressed to find veteran players who have yet to switch teams.