In a weird turn of free agency, two guys have spurned their respective teams for the opportunity to both win a championship and play for their former team’s rival. With Steve Nash leaving the Phoenix sun for Hollywood gold and Ray Allen going to South Beach instead of returning to Boston green, a lot of people are rubbed the wrong way. Why, though?
In an era where LeBron James changed free agency for athletes everywhere, it seems people have a problem with guys choosing their destination. LeBron’s decision wasn’t just about him leaving the Cavaliers on television, it was about him leaving them at all. With less dramatic exits, Nash and Allen see that this is again the case.
When it was made known that Allen was leaving the Celtics for the defending champion Heat, a lot was made of him going to a playoff rival, the team Boston hated and wanted to beat. Never mind the fact that Boston once traded Allen for O.J. Mayo in February only to find out the trade couldn’t go through. Let’s totally disregard how awkward it could have been for a veteran and professional of Allen’s stature to deal with that. The trade rumors regarding Monta Ellis the year before, being demoted for a second-year player and a diminished role did more than skeptics may realize.
Sure, Allen went to a rival. But he’s also been traded three times in his career and never really had the chance to choose where he would play; he’s always made the politically correct choice, the choice everyone wants an athlete to make. The sentimental option was Boston, the professional one was Miami.
Boston can beat Miami if they had Ray and collective health, but they haven’t beaten Miami for two straight years. Why would Ray want to go back to a team that is declining, less talented, and even less than receptive about keeping him? It’s the same dynamic LeBron was presented with in 2010, the only difference is the stature of the players. The thing that will never change is the fans who won’t let athletes be human.
Steve Nash has a family, he’s going through a divorce and wants to be near his children, but he’s a traitor because he wanted to play for the division rival Lakers.
This is where Nash, like LeBron, ended up in a lose-lose situation. He’s won MVP awards, he’s got the accolades and he has the statistics, he just has no championship to his resume.
Had Nash chosen Toronto instead of the Lakers, he would have been seen as the greedy athlete who doesn’t want to win. The Raptors wanted to give Nash $13 million a year, that wasn’t good enough if he wasn’t competing for a ring. The Knicks wanted to do a sign-and-trade but that fell through considering they fired the coach Nash loves and also probably won’t compete for a title with Miami in the way. Why can’t Nash be a Laker?
The thing in sports these days is that there’s always a narrative to show that fans, writers and analysts everywhere are capable of chipping away at the armor of even the greatest players. We pretend we want guys to value championships while always putting a spin on the way they should do it, if they don’t do it the way we pretend is the only to do it then it suddenly loses value.
For so long, athletes get a hard time for being selfish and being paid so much to simply play a sport. At what point will people start giving them the benefit of the doubt when they simply want to win?