Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Ben Simmons forever change NBA

Photo of Kyrie Irving
Erik Drost/Creative Commons

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LeBron James shocked the world with his move to the Miami Heat — especially how it played out live on ESPN. This is something no league has ever witnessed. Beyond that, Kevin Durant turned the essence of competitive spirit upside down after he joined the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. Kawhi Leonard decided to team up with Paul George one random morning at 3 a.m.

Player movement is at its peak. The top-tier superstars can practically go and play wherever they want, whenever they want and however much they want. All of this freedom is hanging in the balance because of the actions of three All-NBA players: Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Ben Simmons.

As sports television personality Stephen Smith has repeatedly said, “These owners are coming.”

The 30 governors within the NBA will no longer put up with these selfish superstars who fail to put the “we” over the “me” — superstars who want complete autonomy over the games that they play while getting paid top dollar in the process (i.e. Irving). What’s more, Irving refused to adhere to the health and safety guidelines put in place.

Not only was the mandate put in place for him, but it was put in place for millions of other Americans as well. Yet unlike the masses, Irving brings home millions of dollars every year, affording him the luxury to remain unvaccinated. In the process, though, he’s hurting his team with his absence.

Owners will no longer risk their organizations’ future in order to have one of the superstars force their way to the next organization the second things get rough (i.e. Harden). This past season, Harden puppeteered his way to his third team in four years. After the 2020 rendition of the Houston Rockets, everything seemed to go south, and fast.

Harden had no interest in sticking around for a rebuild. He made his way to the Brooklyn Nets; He, Irving and Durant were supposed to be the next big super team of this era following Durant’s departure from Golden State. However, in the two seasons with the Nets, we only saw this big three on the court together for a total of 16 games.

Teams will no longer allow players to sit on the bench the entire season and refuse to work with team doctors while recouping 100% of their contract (i.e. Simmons). Let me give you this scenario: I’m a surgeon and you’re my boss. Let’s say I refused to show up to work and perform any surgeries, but I am demanding to still get paid in full. Beyond that, if you deny me full compensation then, you know what, I’m going to sue you.

This scenario is more or less what Simmons did to the Philadelphia 76ers. Simmons did cite mental health as the reason for his absence, but he refused to work with any team doctors, refused to show up to practice and would not communicate with teammates, coaches or executives.

Simmons now finds himself in Brooklyn. It’s almost funny how all this comes back to the Nets. All these problems are landing right in the lap of Durant. Durant himself has said “enough” as he requested a trade away from the drama-infused Nets. Now, imagine what the owners are going to say when it’s their turn. In the end, they’re the ones cashing all the checks.

The current collective bargaining agreement was signed back in 2017 and is set to officially expire after the 2023-2024 season. The National Basketball Players Association and team governors come together every so often to revise the terms and conditions of employment. It is almost certain that when the time comes — when all 30 owners and player representatives are sitting at a conference table at some fancy hotel — Simmons, Harden and Irving will be at the top of the agenda.

For decades, the NBA has been a players league. Opposite to the NFL, the players hold the power. If these players aren’t careful and more thoughtful about their decisions, they’re going to relinquish their power back to the owners.

Ethan Scott is a Bear Bytes Blog writer. Contact him at [email protected].