New Divisions Shape The NBA: Loyalty Vs. Limelight

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New Divisions Shape The NBA: Loyalty Vs. Limelight
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

The 2010 NBA offseason has been as intriguing as any other in league history. We've seen the formation of a new powerhouse in Miami, as well as big names stars leaving the West for the likes of Chicago and New York.

The biggest names have and still continue to dominate the headlines.

New Orleans PG Chris Paul is reportedly unhappy with his situation in New Orleans, despite having three years and almost $50 million left on his contract.

Denver Nuggets star forward Carmelo Anthony has joined the disgruntled ranks of Paul, repeatedly refusing contract extensions offered to him. Anthony has just one guaranteed year left on his current deal.

It's become apparent that both players want out of their respective organizations, hoping to possibly join forces with Amare Stoudemire and the New York Knicks, in an attempt to one-up the recently formed Miami conglomerate of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

The 2010 offseason has pitted the East vs. West. In 2009, the West as a whole outplayed the east. Yet, the biggest free agents on the market all ended up in the East.

Miami has become the automatic favorite for an NBA championship. Carlos Boozer has joined Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in Chicago. Amare Stoudemire has "taken his talent" to the Big Apple. Plus, you still have the incumbent Celtics, as well as Dwight Howard and the Magic.

It seems as if New York would be the favored landing spot for both Anthony and Paul, but even if neither of them ended up there, the New Jersey Nets are a possible fit.

At any rate, the NBA is headed towards a clash of epic proportions: those stars loyal to their organizations against the newly formed superteams seeking multiple championships and a dynasty.

Two faces emerge as the epitome of player-organization loyalty. Both reside in the West. One is a veteran, the other, just a kid.

Yes, I'm talking about Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.

Amidst the free agent speculation and pretentious ESPN specials, Kevin Durant quietly agreed to a five year contract extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The deal will keep him with OKC through the remainder of the 2015-16 season. 

Durant will look to further continue the Thunders vast improvement, as they made the jump from 23 to 50 wins last season.

Remember just a few years ago when Kobe, crucified by the press for his off-the-court dealings, couldn't get an advertisement deal? When the Lakers were a barely a shoe-in playoff team?

Well, that couldn't be any farther from the current state of things.

Kobe, fresh off back-to-back NBA titles and finals MVP awards, has cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time.

Not only that, he's threatening the likes of Johnson, West, Abdul-Jabbar, Worthy, and Baylor for the title of greatest Laker ever. Some would claim he's already accomplished that feat.

Bryant will remain a Laker through the 2013-14 season, and likely will retire having played his entire illustrious career with the purple-and-gold.

On the other hand, you have the new look Miami Heat. They are the consensus preseason pick to win the NBA title. They represent the glitz and the glamor of the NBA. They are a marketing firms dream come true.

They will look to push the envelope in the NBA; looking to do what few have accomplished, all the while challenging the existing belief held by many who surround the NBA that elite players should play against, not with, each other.

The Heat, James especially, will look to shed the current image that surrounds them; that they are a group of arrogant superstars looking for millions of dollars and some cheap hardware.

Whoever you root for, the 2010 offseason has brought the NBA into uncharted waters before. Never before has the superstar athlete dominated the sport as much as it has now.

The upcoming seasons should be some of the most entertaining and memorable in recent history.

And, just remember, don't ever let Scal dunk on you.

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