For most people in the sporting world, an athlete’s loyalty to his club matters a lot. It might not be as huge as it is in basketball, but across the sporting world, loyalty is a significant currency. There are some Barcelona fans peeved and pissed off with Neymar for deciding to leave the Nou Camp. There are some Manchester United supporters who still refuse to come to terms with Ronaldo’s departure. In basketball, it is worse.
Every year when a star leaves his team for a new one, usually in search of a ring (championship), fans of his former team engage in the time honored ritual of jersey burning. They don’t burn the jersey in reverence like God ordered Cain and Abel to light up their sacrifice. The immolation is done out of anger. “Why did he leave us” “He is a snake” “He is a bandwagoner”, fans say as they light up jerseys they once wore with pride. When LeBron James took his “talents to South beach”, Cleveland fans were beside themselves. They burned his jerseys, some threatened him with death and the team owner had very scathing words for him. This was the same LeBron the entire state of Ohio once loved to death. His lack of “loyalty” to his team was enough to make the fans forget everything he had done for them and the city in the past.
LeBron left Cleveland back in 2010 because the front office of the team was not getting him the kind of players he needed to marshal together to win a trophy. A few years earlier, he had single handedly carried the team to the finals only to be swept in four games by a San Antonio Spurs team that was replete with all the right pieces. LeBron knew that at the end of his season, he was going to be judged by the number of championship rings on his fingers and not his loyalty to his team.
NBA history is full of places who never won ring even and stayed keep at the same team. These players are never placed in the same category with the so called Greatest of All Time. To be in a G.O.A.T conversation, you need to have won rings and staying in Cleveland was not going to make that happen at the time. Fast forward and LeBron moved to Miami, got two rings, returned to Cleveland and won another one for the team. All is now good between LeBron and Cleveland in terms of where he stands as a hero.
Given how much premium fans across the NBA place on loyalty, you would think the teams themselves place the same amount of value on it. The answer is obviously a huge no. A team would trade you in a blink of a second if it believes there is a young and better player on the market than you. The recent Kyrie-Thomas trade is all you need to see the truth in this.
After leading the Boston Celtics to the conference finals last year and putting up massive numbers and games, the kind that has been missing in the TD Garden (home of the Celtics) for so long, Thomas got traded when the option popped up. Loyalty much from the team?
You are probably saying you have had enough of the basketball analogies but I believe they drive home the point better. Loyalty is a concept we have conventionally used to trap people into doing things they do not want to do. Like basketball fans, people in our lives can easily demand loyalty of us to promote their parochial needs. Basketball fans want the star in their team to stay on and give them a shot at a championship even when it is not realistic. People in your life want you to be loyal to them so they can get whatever it is you have that they want. What both fans and the people surrounding you forget is that your loyalty to them might not be tailored along the lines of your personal needs.
The only things that deserve your unflinching loyalty are your personal struggles. The things you have determined matter the most to you should benefit from your unending dedication. Nothing else. So if you are LeBron James who is more concerned with winning a ring, then stay loyal to building yourself to getting that a reality. Stay loyal to outworking the next guy, waking up before everyone else does and leaving the gym after everyone has. Stay loyal to chasing after teams that will create a propitious space for you. If that means leaving Cleveland for Miami then by all means do.
And if you are a Joe or Mustapha who wants to rise to the top of his career, then stay loyal to the learning process. Stay loyal to waking up early and beating traffic so you do not have an excuse for why you were late. Stay loyal to being outworking the next person who also wants a promotion. Do not stay loyal to the business/company because once they believe they can downsize without production being affected, you would be a victim. So your loyalty should remain to you and not anyone else.
Now this might seem a tad unsettling for a couple. Relationships work differently but the message can still be extrapolated in some ways. Stay loyal to yourself, knowing that finding love is important. This would then translate into being loyal to your partner. Yet still, do not lose sight of the fact that you need to be loyal to yourself first. That way even if you get jilted, you can always reclaim your hearted because the most important loyalty was to you and thus you would not want to keep yourself in misery.
At the end of the day, everyone is out here for his or her own. It is one of the most intrinsic things about us all. From the most pious down to the rest of us, heathens and born again sinners alike. We are most driven by what benefits us first of all before we even think of others. So if being loyal to someone comes at an expense you cannot shoulder at all, then insist on your part of the bargain. After all, we do not tell others we are loyal to them just because it looks and sound cool. Be like LeBron and only stay loyal when it allows you to get your ring. Or be like Kevin Durant and just snake your way out of any loyalty purchase.