NBA free agency in 2017 teaches us one lesson above all others Sport News

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NBA free agency in 2017 teaches us one lesson above all others Sport News

Bill Parcells once told reporters that people always show you who they are. You just need to listen.

Well, America, take a moment and lend your ear. Because in the NBA‘s frenzied summer of free-agency, a host of stars are telling you something about the league, its stars and the nature of our country and its always-bustling cauldron of ambition.

There’s no loyalty.

None.

Just listen.

Chris Paul told us that when, two years after helping to coax DeAndre Jordan back from a Dallas Mavericks team Jordan agreed to join, CP3 bolted for Houston. Paul is a Rocket now, Jordan is still stuck a Clipper, and the rest of us should take note. All that talk of brotherhood, friendship and commitment was a CP3 sales pitch, not a real connection.

It’s not only our jobs that don’t always love us back. It’s our teams and their stars, too, whose affection is decidedly temporary.

Gordon Hayward was drafted No. 9 overall seven years ago, bloomed into a max player and became the linchpin of a Utah Jazz team growing into a legitimate Western Conference force. Until last week, when he said, “See ya, Utah, it’s Boston time.”

Former Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert was listening. And he heard, loud and clear, that same message. He even offered up on Instagram Chris Brown’s time-honored, if misogynistic, refrain that sometimes these, er, folks ain’t loyal.

Because they ain’t. Not anymore. The days of Jeter, Brett, Duncan and Kobe living out careers in the same jersey are over. Loyalty in sports is dead.

Kevin Durant is a Warrior now. Paul George made it clear a full year before his contract was up in Indianapolis that he had no intention of being a Pacer. Forget exiting stage right, George eviscerated any chance the Pacers had to trade him for appropriate value.

This is the natural extension of two facts. The first is that — and professional athletes will tell you they eventually learn this the hard way — their chosen career is pure “The Godfather:” It’s not personal. It’s strictly business. In the past, lack of loyalty came most clearly from the teams to players — not the other way around. But stars are flipping the script. Because, secondly, in a league where the superstars blaze the trails, LeBron James‘ concerted effort to wrest power from owners and give it to those who play the game is paying off.

You see it in the massive salaries hauled by stars — and non-stars. A direct link to the increased BRI (as in “basketball-related income” — all the money) negotiated by NBPA president Paul and vice-president James, who wisely made it a philosophical imperative to empower players in every way possible.

You see it in LeBron saying Stephen Curry should have gotten $100 million a year.

And you see it in a league where, with everyone acutely aware James again could break Cleveland’s heart, there’s liberation for every other player to look out for their own self-interests, loyalty be damned.

This isn’t a bad thing, just a reality too many ignored for too long. A recently deposed, high-profile college basketball coach texted me an article last weekend about why being loyal to an employer can be a very costly mistake.

We all work for a living, and the lucky among us love our jobs. I sure do — this one at CBSSports.com and my national radio show for CBS Sports Radio. But the coach’s note struck a chord, particularly after I watched a former employer gut its sports website, as I took in the shifting devotion of the NBA’s best players and as I thought over how sports have always reflected the best parts of the rest of us. And the fact is America is great because it’s more of a meritocracy than anywhere on earth, where you can go out — alone — and carve your own legacy.

It’s also a reminder, no matter how much our sports superstars seem unrelatable and of another world, that their willingness to break our hearts (or, if you’re in the right place, make our day) actually make them a lot like the rest of us.

We all yearn for success, respect, and the freedom to work and do what we want. Just like we yearn for greatness and glory.

We used to watch sports in part to vicariously enjoy the latter. But we can also take pride in the former — in LeBron toying with his supposed boss, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert; in Carmelo Anthony besting Phil Jackson; in Durant and George and CP3 taking command of their world and reminding us we still can captain our own ships. That there are still surprises ahead.

Parcells was right. People tell you who they are. Just listen. And having listened for a very, very long time, the players have heard that their owners, their GMs, even their fans often only love them so long as they can get something out of them.

Now it’s the players who are speaking the same message: I’m looking out for me.

NBA free agency in 2017 teaches us one lesson above all others Sport News

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NBA free agency in 2017 teaches us one lesson above all others Sport News

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