I have a question. Why do NBA players care about playing in big cities?
Why is it so important to them? Why are they primarily the only players in the four major professional sports that put this thought as a high priority? Dwight Howard has. Lebron James and Chris Bosh did.
NFL players don’t care all that much because they know contracts are not guaranteed, so they take what they can get for the most part. MLB players care to some degree, but they follow the money. The NHL as a league are always trying to gain attention and market themselves, but the players don’t give it as much thought as NBA players do at the end of the day.
It’s really funny. Over the years, you would hear from fans in sports about how they don’t like the way certain players chase the money. Those comments usually come from small market fans. The funny thing about that is if you root for a small market team, you better hope the players chase the money.
The reason I say that is because the only real problem a small market team would have in that situation is if the owner is cheap. That can be fixed. If the owner is willing to pay up and NBA players are chasing the money, it really is an even playing field.
But if players are chasing the marketability, small market teams are at a disadvantage. There’s nothing you can do as a city to change the perception of where you are in the short term. Maybe down the road, but not immediately.
What this does is that it makes teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks real lazy knowing that they reside in big cities. They know they don’t have to work as hard as other small market teams like the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder year in, and year out. All the big market cities have to do is try and clear as much cap room as they can.
You could argue that the Lakers, for instance, have the most overrated front office in professional sports of the last 16 years. Outside of Kobe Bryant, who they drafted in 1996, can you name one legit player the Lakers have drafted from 1997-2013 that could give you 18 points a game, and be relied upon?
The funny part about Bryant is that they didn’t even draft him. They traded for him. The lack of draft success in the last 16 years hasn’t stopped the praise the Lakers front office has been getting — great team over the last 16 years, but average-at-best talent evaluators.
I can’t name one legit player the Lakers have drafted in that time. And no, I don’t count Andrew Bynum as a legit player. At the end of the day, a city like Los Angeles knows that they will always get star free agents because the city sells itself more than the team does, regardless of how many championships the Lakers win.
Going back to the small market teams, the Jazz and the Thunder got to be playoff contenders in their respective times because the Jazz, for instance, drafted Karl Malone and John Stockton in the 1980s, who both to stayed during their prime because they didn’t care about the spotlight.
For the Thunder, they recently drafted Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to reach the elite status they are currently in as a franchise, and both players don’t care about the spotlight either. It’s rare to see that. But as a small market team, you have to know that kind of player you are bringing in will have the mentality of a franchise player, and will want to stay for a long time.
Essentially, if the star players don’t want to play in a small city, there’s no reason why the NBA should have 30 teams in their league. Players are boycotting cities whether they are doing it on purpose or not, and it isn’t fair to the fans.