Loyalty in sports is an often questioned topic. Should players stay in the town where they were made famous and where the fans backed them vociferously, or is playing for a team simply a business decision?
The NBA has seen its share of star players changing teams often, which occurred when Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined Paul Pierce in Boston in 2007. They won the title in their first season and were a collective unit from 2007 until this past season.
That all changed last week when Ray Allen decided to join the Miami Heat for well less than what was offered by the Celtics. Allen seemed to be done with the Celtics organization and was certainly not going to come off the bench next season.
Celtics fans may feel betrayed by this decision, but Allen should not be jeered at all by the fans in Boston. If he should be loyal to them, then the organization should be loyal to him. That was not the case when he was nearly traded to the Grizzlies this past season before the trade fell apart at the last second. He was aware of the situation, then had to come out and play for the Celtics and pretend like nothing happened after it did not go through.
Steve Nash summed up the situation perfectly during a recent interview when he flat out stated that there is no true sense of loyalty in sports. Players can be traded at any point in time, and few players are truly safe from being moved. Him joining the Lakers may seem mind-boggling to fans in Phoenix, but he is on a quest to win a title, and he is surely not going to get that done with the Suns.
Fans should respect the players that play for their teams, given that they earn that respect and not go too crazy once the players leave. (One exception is LeBron James for obvious reasons).
The fact that Ray Allen took less money to join the Heat should also take away some of the heat (no pun intended) towards him. He did not spurn the Celtics due to an issue of money, but simply wanted to join a better team to finish off his career. The Celtics are going to make one final push for the next couple of seasons before ultimately getting past the era of Pierce and Garnett. Allen likely thought that his best shot to win again was to join the rising Heat instead of the declining Celtics.
Fans will always feel slighted by players who decide to leave their team for another, but the many sports leagues in America are, at their cores, businesses. As that is true, players will jump from team to team just as GMs will trade the same players at any point in time. Two sides are needed for loyalty to exist, and that is simply not present.