People always say that basketball is a business. True. It's also a relationship between team and player. And with any relationship, there are ups and downs, highs and lows that both parties go through together, learning and adapting. Like marriage, it can be a difficult process but ultimately the bond is strengthened. Or broken.
Using this article as a template, I break down the 5 Stages Of NBA Relationships:
Stage 1- Romance
The GM is drooling over his prized new draft pick. The player is excited about playing professionally and making a name for himself. Both people are convinced that the player will be the Next Jordan and help the team win 2 titles a year for the ensuing decade. Pure fantasy. A honeymoon phase where endorphins are running high.
Stage 2- Disillusionment
GM realizes that player is not the Next Jordan, or even the Next Harpring. Player pouts when fans and media turn on him. Everyone starts pointing fingers. Trade talk comes from both sides. In a healthy relationship, this is where candid and honest communication is required to resolve conflict. In a league resplendent with egomaniacal douchebags, this rarely happens.
*NOTE: Portland and Bayless are absolutely buried in this stage right now.
Stage 3- Power Struggle
If the player hasn't been traded by this point, it probably means he's actually pretty good. Being pretty good means having some leverage. This is where borderline stars ask for outlandish amounts of money at the end of their rookie contracts. GMs hate this stage because fans and media are up their ass on a daily basis, pressuring them to break the bank for a relatively still-unproven talent (David Lee, anyone?). Skeevy agents usually add more fuel to the fire, saying things like "My guy is the Next Jordan." They're never right about this.
Stage 4- Stability
The deal gets done- the player's locked up long term. Player, agent, fans and media are happy. The GM's pissed that he overspent but what the fuck else could he do? Now the real danger sets in. The fat and happy player has nothing left to prove and absolutely no reason to stay in shape, listen to the coach, go to practice, learn plays, etc. However, if the player has good character (hah!) and appreciates everything the team has done for him, this can lead to the most wonderful phase of all.
Stage 5- Commitment
This is true love. Acceptance. They're best friends. In it together. The player will retire with that team because there's just no fucking way anything else could possibly happen. It's extremely rare that any player/team reach this phase. Bird/Celtics, Magic/Lakers, Dumars/Pistons, Reggie/Pacers, Duncan/Spurs...you get the point. And most of these examples are prior to the Free Agency boom. Still, there's no question that long term commitment greatly enhances the reputation of player and organization alike. It's a win/win.
But, as I said at the top, the priority is always getting paid. To quote Method Man, "Dollar dollar bill, y'all."
Pictured: Laker love connection