James: "When a player decides to leave...he's a snake. That's the narrative."
LeBron James thinks players and teams are held to different standards when it comes to loyalty. Namely: teams get a pass for trading a player on a long-term contract, whereas a player gets roasted if he decides to leave a team in free agency.
James conveyed that sentiment when he was asked his thoughts upon hearing that the Clippers had traded Blake Griffin to the Pistons after the five-time All-Star committed to the franchise by signing a five-year, $173 million deal this summer, even after Chris Paul was traded to the Rockets. James said he was shocked to learn of the Griffin trade and felt it was "unfortunate."
"When a player gets traded, [the team] was doing what's best for the franchise. But when a player decides to leave, he's not loyal, he's a snake, he's not committed. That's the narrative of how it goes. I'm definitely—I know that first hand."
James is ostensibly referring to the public reaction to his decision to leave the Cavaliers for the Heat in 2010, a move that was labeled by many as a sign of disloyalty. Kevin Durant is perhaps the best example of the phenomenon James describes, as Durant was ripped for joining the Warriors the summer after Golden State knocked out his Oklahoma City Thunder in the seventh game of the Western Conference Finals.
Both players said they felt joining a new team was best for themselves and their careers, and both moves were rewarded with championships—James won two titles and reached four straight finals in Miami, while Durant won it all last season in his first year with the Warriors.
Griffin was traded along with Brice Johnson and Willie Reed in exchange for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovich, a lightly protected first-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick. Griffin had been with Los Angeles for the entirety of his career after the team selected him first overall in the 2009 draft.