When does it become appropriate to join a team for a championship? As a fan I almost find it hypocritical that at times I’m rooting for the players that left their teams and went to contenders, and at times I strongly hate the players that leave their teams. I thought about this as I was watching the Boston Celtics thrash the Lakers to win their 17th NBA title. As I was rooting for the Celtics to beat Kobe I began wondering, Kevin Garnett left the team that took him out of high school, he was the star of the team, the face of the franchise did he just quit and give up on the wolves and say I can’t do it.
There are plenty of instances where a player is hated for quitting on his team. We’ve blasted A-Rod for signing a record breaking deal with last place Texas, only to say, “I can’t do it all by myself” and forcing a trade to the Red Sox, and when that fell through a trade to the Yankees. The same can be said about a certain Randy Moss who signed a large contract with the Raiders only to say “I can’t do this” and move to the Patriots. The icing on the cake here is to say that to date neither of the two have won championships. In fact both of them were involved in some pretty nice choke jobs. A-Rod and his Yankees blowing a 3-0 lead against the Red Sox, including his famous slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s hand in game 6. Moss went to join Tom Brady with the patriots and went on a record setting season, only the numbers he’ll see the most next season are 18-1… as the patriots choked and couldn’t win the Super Bowl.
I’m no fan of NBA, I’d much prefer the college game, but the NBA does manage to provide some good examples. This year Jason Kidd provided himself as a distraction to the Nets even skipping a practice because of a “migraine.” I followed the Nets when they would make their deep playoff runs earlier this decade and when I would attend games I enjoyed watching Kidd play. So much to say when Kidd came out and said it was time for him and the Nets to move on the Nets followed through and traded him to Dallas. When a player is the center piece of his team and carries them to a championship or close to it, he earns a place in every fans heart. The best example I could think of is Mets catcher Mike Piazza. We were bad when he came and he was beginning of the turnaround, he brought us to the 2000 world series where we lost to our cross-town rival Yankees (you could read about their training regime in full detail in the Mitchell Report). Even though we didn’t win he was the face of the franchise for 8 years, we loved him, he left because he was old and we simply needed to go in a new direction. However he never left our hearts, when he returned to Shea the game was delayed for a minute and half before his first at-bat as he was given a standing ovation. He was given another one late in the game after a base hit. He was given a third the next day when he hit a home run, against us. In the 70’s when the Rangers traded away fan favorite goaltender Eddy Giacomin his first game with the Red Wings was at the Garden against the Rangers. That game saw the entire Garden rooting for Eddy and the Wings, even booing when the Rangers scored. So yes, Kidd was the face of the franchise for the Nets, he took them to the finals twice, but he left on bad terms, and blasted the team in the process. This woke me, the most casual NBA fan that there is to wake up and immediately hope Kidd would go to Dallas and they would miss the playoffs.
So I think to myself when is it alright to be rooting for the player who left his team. You root against Kidd and hope he doesn’t win after screwing over the Nets, but everyone in Boston, (rather every NHL fan other then stupid and low-life Devils fans) rooted for Ray Bourque to win the cup with Colorado, not the Bruins. So, what made these Celtics different that I could accept that I was rooting for Pierce Garnett and Allen to win the title? Pierce and Allen are easily explained as Pierce is a lifelong Celtic and lived through some bad years and clearly deserved it. Allen was traded to the Celtics, but also had played for a few different teams and didn’t have a signature team. What put everything into perspective was with about a minute left in the game Mike Breen said it simply, Boston’s “Big 3” had put their personal stats aside for the benefit of the team.
I said before I’m not a fan of the NBA, rather the college game is what I will watch. The answer is simple; college basketball is real basketball, 5 on 5, a team playing against another team playing as a team. The NBA is built around superstars who are all for their own stats and play for themselves. They take the most money which doesn’t allow their team to go out and find other good players. But it’s very boring to watch, how often do you want to watch LeBron take 5 steps through the lane with no travel call. The “Big 3” gave up their personal stats to play as a team, and in game 6, they played very exciting team basketball. On the losing side is the exact problem with the NBA, Kobe Bryant. Kobe won three titles with the Lakers with Shaq on his team before arguing that he couldn’t play with Shaq because his stats were suffering. As Kobe is finding out now it is defiantly easier to win with a dominant center. And Shaq has proved he could win without Kobe, but Kobe is starting to find out, he might have the best stats in the NBA, he might be the MVP, he might even be one of the best players ever to play the game, but he can’t win a title on his own.