NBA Free Agency has gone from the typical offseason period of transactions, that’ll occasionally show up on SportsCenter or the sports section of your local newspaper, to a full on reality show starring your favorite NBA players. It has become such a spectacle that high-profile players are religiously questioned about their impending free agency before, during, and after the season.
This all originally started with “The Decision”, a one-hour ESPN special highlighting LeBron James’ 2009-10 season & free agency before announcing that he’d leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to “take his talents to South Beach” (join the Miami Heat). Since then we’ve had classic moments in free agency from the Chandler Parsons-Mark Cuban bromance, to the Clippers begging DeAndre Jordan to stay, and “My Next Chapter” (Kevin Durant’s Article in the Players’ Tribune announcing that he’d joined the Golden State Warriors). Just how does free agency ultimately affect the NBA as a whole? I’ve come up with three reasons as to how so.
1. Player Empowerment
Since “The Decision”, players have been given a sense of power today to take control of their careers and look out for what’s best for them. Long gone are the days of team loyalty, as we all know that teams aren’t as loyal to players as the players feel they should be. Just ask DeMar DeRozan. Free agency gives these players, rather restricted or unrestricted, the opportunity to bet on themselves and position themselves for the best possible situation to win. This is shown in the short term deals that superstar players sign in order to win. In addition, this is shown in the player options and other clauses added in player contracts. Whether the deals are max level or not, players revel in the option to opt in or out of their contracts after the season based on the teams’ results or how they feel about the situation. Also, it affects their health, which in the end promotes longevity in players’ careers.
2. Competitive Scales of Justice
Free agency in the NBA is ultimately affected in the decisions a superstar makes in who they will sign with and which other superstars they desire to play with. Teams “stacking the deck” creates narratives heading into the following season. It is must see TV. It’s a must follow on Twitter. The Warriors were everyone’s team to hate the past few seasons. The Lakers, with the addition of Anthony Davis and possibly another superstar, will wear the moniker this upcoming season. Of course, free agency affects the NBA negatively as it throws off the competitive balance that makes all sports great. Each and every season there are only 1-3 teams with legitimate chances of actually winning the NBA championship. Compare that with the NFL where there are five or six teams with chances at a Super Bowl. Some fans want complete “parity” in the NBA, but to be honest this super team theory has been something that has existed since the NBA’s inception.
3. Microwave Society
The society we live in today is all about the now. What can we do now? What have you done for me lately? Fans almost always overreact after a game one in the playoffs as if that specific game will define the series. To specify more on the microwave society, player legacy is the product of the microwave society in which we live in. The media, fans, past/present players, and people within tight circles all advocate for winning rings now as opposed to fully developing and potentially building a sustainable playoff contender. Free agency has become the “Get Rich” overnight way to a championship. What’s the quickest way to a championship? Teaming up with fellow superstars.
-Trevor Shipp, Co-host