Golden State's Draymond Green has only known one team during his NBA career, but Kevin Durant's arrival last season allowed him to see first-hand what kind of backlash star players deal with when switching sides. The drama didn't end up mattering that much on the court: the Warriors won the NBA Finals in convincing fashion, clearly unbothered by any criticism of their assembly of a super team.
More and more players are working together to form similar partnerships, as we saw with Chris Paul joining James Harden in Houston this summer. With LeBron James on the verge of making another huge free-agency decision, Green believes the Cavaliers icon deserves credit for changing the conversation around these decisions, which he told reporters at a Tuesday event where the Warriors unveiled new jerseys sponsored by Rakuten.
LeBron made it OK. I think he opened up a new door for guys. He gave guys a voice and willing to use that voice. I wasn’t sure at the time he knew what he was doing. There was so much backlash and all of those things. It really opened up new doors for guys.
Maybe he didn’t know what he was doing. I don’t know. He did something special for guys around the NBA. To take careers into your own hands and go where you feel you want to go. Obviously there are rules in place to try to stop it. But you have the power to do what you want to do. That’s a special thing. If anything, he opened guys’ eyes on what you can possibly do.
LeBron's upper-case Decision was a landmark event in a lot of ways—who else have you seen hold a TV special for a free-agency announcement?—but it probably doesn't get the credit it deserves for taking the burden off of a lot of other players who have fled their former teams for greener pastures. Durant faced a ton of backlash for his decision, and will likely continue to do so for the rest of his career.
But the peer pressure is not anywhere near as intense as it once was. You can see part of the culture change in the offseason, when NBA players from across the league are spotted working out together in the offseason, assembling in various gyms and then posing for pictures together when it's all said and done.
Perhaps it's just a generational thing (those damn millennials, am I right?), but more and more guys are willing to set their egos aside in pursuit of a championship, and they're willing to dictate the terms themselves rather than relying on general managers and team owners to get the job done. Since the players are quite literally the product in professional sports, they deserve that, and Green appears happy to acknowledge LeBron's role in that—even if they are on-court rivals.
You can watch Green show a bit of love to LeBron below. Take this as a reminder that you can still give your rivals credit if they do something positive.