The NBA community loves loyalty. Legends like Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, and Kobe Bryant are praised for staying with one organization throughout their careers. On the other hand, when players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant left their respective teams, their jerseys were burned, their posters were torn down, and their names were slandered and ridiculed.
Loyalty is overrated, and it shouldn’t be the determining factor in how someone’s legacy is viewed. The perfect example of this is Udonis Haslem, who is known for his loyalty and his long tenure with the Miami Heat.
After going undrafted in 2002, Haslem played one year in France before signing with the Miami Heat in 2003. For the next 7 years, Haslem was solid, starting for more than half of the games he played in and averaging just over 10 points a game.
In his third year in the NBA, Haslem played a key role in helping the Miami Heat win their first NBA championship.
In the 2010 offseason, Haslem was a free agent. Receiving offers of up to $34 million from the Nuggets and Mavericks, Udonis Haslem turned those down. Instead, on July 12th, 2010 he decided to resign with the Heat for $20 million over five years.
On the surface, this is an act of loyalty. However, just five days before Udonis re-signed, Chris Bosh agreed to sign with Miami. The very next day, LeBron James decided to bring his talents to South Beach as well.
Yes, Haslem accepted less money, but his move can’t be seen purely as loyalty to the team, as he was also just choosing the team with the best chance to win.
For the first 5 years after his contract, his role diminished, and he was an average benchwarmer who provided solid minutes. However, after those 5 years, he has been more or less completely out of the rotation and serves more as an emotional figure than an actual player.
Was Udonis Haslem loyal? Yes. After all, he has been a part of one team for the past 17 years. But towards the back half of his career, when Haslem was no longer as productive, choosing Haslem over a young piece who could potentially develop made no sense from strictly a basketball standpoint.
The Miami Heat were arguably more loyal to Haslem than Haslem was to the Heat.
The NBA community loves to glorify players who stick with one team throughout their whole careers, and then ridicule and diminish players who left struggling franchises for greener pastures. Loyalty is important, but the sports world’s emphasis on loyalty is disproportionate and unwarranted.
Photo Credit: NBA