You Broke My Heart Fredo: The NBA's Top Five Backstabs in Recent History
In honor of Elton Brand playing a hand in destroying two franchises and contributing nothing to a third this season, here are five of the biggest backstabs in recent NBA history.
God Doesn't Want Stevie Franchise Playing in Canada
In the same ilk of John Elway refusing to play in Baltimore and forcing his way to Denver, Steve Francis stubbornly protested being drafted No. 2 by the lowly Vancouver Grizzlies in the 1999 NBA Draft.
Citing the Canadian city being too far away from his family in Maryland (a close drive to Houston, right?), extra taxes, and most importantly, God's will, he was traded to the Rockets and posted excellent numbers, though his teams never had much success.
Ironically, the last team he was a member of was the Memphis Grizzlies, where he was waived in January. So, it comes full circle. At first, he didn't want the Grizz, and now the Grizz—or anyone else for that matter—don't want him.
Anything Isiah Thomas Has Done Since His Playing Days
He killed the CBA, crippled the Raptors, treaded water with the Pacers, and destroyed the credibility of one of the NBA's most prestigious franchises in the New York Knicks. I'd have to devote a separate article to cover Thomas's backstabbings and franchise-compromising decisions, so we will just leave it at this.
Will anyone even remember what a great point guard he was when he is done tarnishing his name?
5. Elton Brand Cripples the West Coast
Baron Davis and Elton Brand were supposed to lead the Clippers to new heights in the West. Brand recruited the free agent hard in the offseason, convincing him that the two could form a dynamic duo to potentially challenge their Staples Center neighbors and the rest of the conference.
Or at least take some of the stink out of that awful franchise.
Brand was successful in luring Davis from an exciting team in Golden State to the Clips before stabbing him and the organization in the back by taking more cash to play in the Fresh Prince's hometown.
Brand allegedly had a verbal agreement to re-up with the Clips before super-agent David Falk struck a deal for more cash in Philly.
So the Clippers still stink, the Warriors are back to being one of the worst teams in the league, and all Brand did was jam up a young exciting team in Philly that didn't take off until he got hurt.
Thanks for killing two franchises, Elton. Hope the money was worth it.
4. Carlos Boozer Cons a Blind Guy
Lost in all of the LeBron James hoopla is the fact that he could have had the perfect compliment on the low block in Carlos Boozer all these years, if only he hadn't conned the Cavs' blind owner and spurned Cleveland for more cash in Utah.
Boozer had a gentleman's agreement with then-Cavs owner Gordon Gund to renegotiate a new long-term contract that would keep him in Cleveland for years to come. The caveat was that the Cavs had to decline his option and wait a few weeks before inking him to a new deal under the CBA.
It was explained to Boozer that he could make more money in the open market. Still, he repeatedly said he wanted his financial security immediately, thus wanting to stay in Cleveland. So Cleveland declined the option and relied on Carlos to be a man of his word.
So what does Boozer do? He signs a lucrative contract with Utah that the Cavs can't match right after he assures Gund that his sole intention is to work out a long-term deal with Cleveland.
Boozer lied and misled the blind old man and gave up the opportunity to not only get fed by LeBron James, but also compete for championships on a yearly basis.
These Duke guys sure are sharks with the contract negotiations, eh?
3. The Phoenix Suns Raffle Off Their First Round Picks to the Highest Bidder
Want an extra first round pick? Give tightwad owner Robert Sarver and the Phoenix Suns a call!
Phoenix was on the cusp of an NBA title throughout the Steve Nash-Mike D'Antoni era in the desert, and outside of their utter disdain for playing anything resembling defense, the other glaring hole for the Suns was their lack of depth.
They often only went seven deep. While D'Antoni prefers a short bench, he usually didn't have much of a choice. Watching Marcus Banks play point guard is a true test of the gag reflex.
There is a good reason why Phoenix never had any quality depth—they were too cheap to keep their own draft picks. Simply look at the players that the Suns gave away, and tell me they didn't ship a few championship rings along with them.
They drafted Luol Deng in 2004, "Nasty" Nate Robinson in 2005, Rajon Rondo and Sergio Rodriguez in 2006, and Rudy Fernandez in 2007.
What do they all have in common outside of being solid to All-Star caliber players?
None of them played a minute for the Suns. They were all shipped out in cost-cutting moves. Any of them could have contributed greatly to championship runs in Phoenix.
Note that this isn't one of those "hindsight is 20-20" deals where they passed over these guys who could have potentially starred for them. They actually drafted them all...and sold them off.
It came down to dollars and cents for Phoenix instead of the pursuit of a championship for their players, coaches, and fans. Management simply let them down. For that, Suns fans can only wonder what if?
2. Breaking Up Da Bulls
The ego of Jerry Krause did what no NBA team could do throughout the 1990s: defeat the Chicago Bulls.
For that, he makes the list for stabbing basketball fans throughout the world in the back—for cheating us out of seeing how long the dynasty could have lasted with MJ, Pippen, and Phil leading the Bulls.
According to Krause, organizations win championships, not players or coaches. The Bulls organization hasn't sniffed a title since Krause refused to offer Phil Jackson a contract following their sixth and final championship.
The rest is history.
Michael Jordan retired, Dennis Rodman spiraled out of control, Scottie Pippen went to Houston, and Phil later helped carve out another dynasty in L.A. when he wasn't busy bedding the owner's daughter.
Without Krause pushing Phil out in Chicago, maybe we never would have seen MJ in royal blue, the Admiral hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy, or those god-awful Bulls teams losing 60-plus games immediately after the dynasty was dismantled.
The Bulls dynasty did appear to be on its last legs, as they struggled to dispatch the Pacers in 1998 before beating the Jazz in six grueling games. But with the short lockout season, there's no reason they couldn't have made a run in 1999, when the eighth-seeded Knicks made the Finals.
"Crumbs" and his ego literally destroyed an empire.
1. Clay Bennett Hijacks Seattle's Sonics
Growing up, it was hard not to like the Seattle SuperSonics. How could a fan not love watching Shawn Kemp soar and hear Gary Payton trash-talk all the way to the NBA Finals in 1996? They also had one of the loudest home court advantages and a fanbase that truly loved their team.
When Starbucks mogul Howard Schultz decided to sell his Sonics, things went to hell in a handbasket for the future of the franchise. Quickly.
All it took was an ambitious businessman and a poor arena to wrestle a franchise chock-full of history to a city of his choosing. Clay Bennett publicly stated that he wanted to keep the Sonics in Seattle, but he never had any intention of having them play anywhere but Oklahoma City.
So the team that gave us Slick Watts and his trademark headband, "Downtown" Fred Brown and the 1979 NBA champions, windmills from the "Reign Man," and suffocating defense from "the Glove" now resides in Oklahoma City.
If it could happen in Seattle, why couldn't it happen in your sports town?
To borrow from ESPN's Bill Simmons, if the company line is, "Pay for a new arena or I'm leaving," and league officials do nothing to stop this borderline blackmail, what is to stop any owner from holding a franchise hostage?
Taxpayers shouldn't have to deal with ultimatums in order to keep their franchise, especially one with such a rich history and track record of support. Kevin Durant should be wearing Sonic green, rocking Key Arena like Payton and Kemp used to.
Plain and simple, the league turned its back on a city and on a fanbase. That is the ultimate backstab.
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