Too Hot or Too Cold

We are at a time when transfers in college athletics has reached an all time high and it is not uncommon for professional athletes to play for more than 5 teams in a career.

I often join in the criticism and judgment of our athletes’ Goldilocks and the 3 Bears attitude towards finding the team that is right for them.

Coaches, administrators, and fans believe it is due to the lack of toughness in the newest generation: coddling parents, unrealistic expectations of their role, and the need for instant gratification. Trust me, I agree with many of these assessments and could write a few books about it!

However, I am starting to sympathize with our athletes who I truly believe are looking for a transformational organization. Whether they realize it or not, they want to play for a coach or organization that is not looking to tap into their potential for their own gain, but sees it as their responsibility to mentor and care for them as a person.

Most recently, the NBA off season seemed to be pretty normal until a month ago. Free agents were looking to win more games, make more money, and expand their role. Teams were making trades to continue building or even start to rebuild their franchise.

Yet, nothing was more surprising this year than the announcement that Kyrie Irving wanted to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers due to the fact he didn’t want to play on Lebron’s team anymore.

My initial reaction was much like the many critics: I started to make assumptions that his motives for leaving were selfish. I immediately assumed he wanted to be the center of a team and not have to share the spotlight.

After winning the NBA finals in 2016 and losing in the finals in 2015 and 2017, it is clearly not winning that motivates Kyrie Irving. He has done plenty of that with Lebron James.

And if Kyrie is traded he forfeits the opportunity to get a super max contract with Cavs. So money is not his motivator.

I will not claim to know what Kyrie is thinking.

But after further observation I can speculate that his desire to leave would be the same reason Kevin Durant left for the Warriors.

It would be the same reason the San Antonio Spurs’ players don’t leave for bigger contracts.

What Do They Value

They value people over criticism or accolades.

They value people over money.

They value people over wins and championships.

Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, possibly more than any other sports franchise in America, are measured by winning championships. Even a second place finish taints the reputation and legacy of Lebron and the promise he has made to the city of Cleveland.

The San Antonio Spurs players are not household names and do not have huge money contracts, but they are a part of a team that is more of a family than a business.

Kevin Durant is highly criticized and has given up even more of the spotlight in his decision to move to Golden State, but he is part of a group of players that are more committed to the greater good than looking out for themselves.

And Kyrie Irving is looking for a team, with the culture and the people that he will enjoy playing with and help him be the best version of himself.

The fans will continue to make assumptions and criticize their motives.

The media will continue to try to report, interpret and analyze every player tweet and comment.

But before we judge a player’s motivation to transfer we should look at the culture of the program they want to leave, because maybe they are just tired of being lied to and used by the coaches and administrators.

I admire the players who ignore the fans and media.

I admire the players who turn down big time contracts for relationships with good people.

I admire the players who understand sustainable success is about having the right people in it for the long term not about having the most talent today.

-J.P. Nerbun