When should a player ask to be traded? Should he even ask at all?
I'm not talking about a guy sitting on the bench that wants more playing time. Everyone can understand that. I'm talking about your franchise player, the guy on your team who makes millions. The one who plays all the minutes, takes all the shots and has the adoring fans.
The one who plays in the second-largest sports market in the country.
(I'm talking about Kobe Bryant, of course.)
First, let's get this straight: There is no, I repeat no, loyalty in pro basketball. Many think that team owners have this loyalty to players for their service. That's far from the truth. So why should players have this unconditional loyalty? They shouldn't. However, they should have a code of ethics to abide by.
Let me tell you a quick story about teams and franchise players. When I was a kid growing up in Queens, N.Y., in the '70s, Walt "Clyde" Frazier was my man. Forget my man – he was New York. With his style and bravado (don't forget his game), he helped lead the Knicks to countless wins and their first championship in franchise history. He should have retired a Knick. But the Knicks traded an aging Clyde to Cleveland, and I cried myself to sleep.
No loyalty! Should I go on?
Kareem to Los Angeles and Monroe to the Knicks. Fast-forward to Dominique out of Atlanta, Ewing to Seattle, Shaq to Miami, K.G. to Boston. All those cities that lost those stars had some kid crying his eyes out.
It's not about loyalty. It's about business deals, salary caps and states of the franchise. So again, does a player have the right to ask to be traded? Of course. But there is and always will be an unwritten law of basketball etiquette.
My favorite rapper of all time, Notorious B.I.G., recorded a song that described the unwritten codes of crime. Well, here is my now-written version of the 10 Basketball Trade Commandments. These are the rules that any player who wants to be traded should go by.
1. Never talk about being underpaid so you can be traded. No one cares about a millionaire needing more money. The cheddar breeds jealousy.
2. Never let anyone know how much you want to go. You have to move in silence. When you make a splash about being traded, you get no sympathy from fans or teammates.
3. Never trust the press. If you think you're talking off the record, think again. The media will only complicate your demands and also put out false rumors.
4. Never diss your teammates. Just because you want out doesn't mean you take the team out on the way out. The worst thing to say is you want to leave because the team needs help. Your present teammates will say, "Well, if you're that good, then why don't you carry us while your future teammates look at you like a backstabber."
5. Another person off limits in your trade tirade is the coach. Most coaches get in the trenches with you. You have to respect authority even if he can't draw up a winning play.
6. Never publicly say which cities you want to go. Why alienate all the fans in your present city when most cried every tear with you?
7. Keep your family and business completely separated. This rule is so underrated. Never have family or friends give quotes to the press. Handle your own business. You can't appear as a momma's boy.
8. Tell your agent to be an agent and not a quote machine. Let him negotiate the deal behind closed doors. No matter how you slice it, if you have your agent speak for you in the paper he makes you appear weak and greedy.
9. Never miss games, practices or team functions trying to get traded. Respect the game. (This rule could be No. 1, actually.)
10. Remember that someone has to want you to be traded.
Kobe's problem is never on the court. The problem is he breaks the unwritten rules, the etiquette rules.
It makes him easy to watch on the court but hard to root for. Without question, he is the best player to watch in the game today. You just don't want to read what he has to say in the paper or hear about it on the radio.