On Thursday morning, Dwight Howard waived his right to opt out of his contract with the Orlando Magic this summer, ensuring that he will stick around for one more season, at which point we can relive this whole delirious mess all over again. As noted by our Kelly Dwyer in the story linked above, it was a loyal move only insofar as he didn't leave at his first opportunity. The really loyal decision would have been to opt out only to sign a max-level contract with Orlando immediately. In the grand scheme of things, a year's commitment isn't so impressive.
Howard might still stick around long-term, but the extent of his loyalty is as yet undecided. Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, Howard's in-state rival and Olympic teammate, has questioned how much we should praise DH right now. From Twitter:
While Wade's tweet was not posted in response to anyone specifically, it's been suggested that he was reacting to a comment from New Orleans Hornets point guard Jarrett Jack. Check out that tweet after the jump:
If you're inclined to dislike Wade and his Heat teammates, then it's easy to read Jack's statement as a sad commentary on the state of loyalty in today's NBA: If coming back for one year stands out, then we're clearly dealing with a bunch of mercenaries out to find their best options. However, it's unfair to read this era's stars as especially disloyal. The players we most associate with loyalty — Bill Russell, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, et al. — stuck with their teams either because the rules prohibited them from leaving or because those teams gave them the best chances of winning. Players today are motivated by the same factors; the difference is that they now have the ability to engineer trades and free-agent team-ups more easily.
Wade made his point in a flippant and mean-spirited way, but the idea behind it makes sense. Superstars are motivated by many different goals and emotions, and the concept of loyalty can mean little when teams trade and release long-time friends and teammates for little more than cap space. Turning the Howard saga into a question of loyalty casts a complicated situation as a morality tale. A player's professional future is about much more than how close he feels to the franchise that drafted him.
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