LeBron James and the 10 Most Controlling, Manipulative Players in the NBA

Eric FelkeyAnalyst IDecember 7, 2010

LeBron James and the 10 Most Controlling, Manipulative Players in the NBA

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    One issue that will heavily be discussed and debated between the players and owners in upcoming meetings regarding the new collective bargaining agreement is power.

    They won't discuss "power" using that term. It'll be tossed around in talks surrounding amount of money players can make, the length of contracts, guaranteed contracts, hard salary cap vs. soft salary cap, etc.

    But in the end, it all comes down to two things: money and power.

    The owners feel the players have too much power...and they're absolutely correct. Because of guaranteed contracts, and in part of the owners' willingness to overpay more than half of the guys in the league even though they publicly speak about losing money, players have more control over the league than they ever had.

    ProBasketballTalk.com wonderfully documents the power struggle in a post from last month. And the article brings up a great point: can you imagine if guys from the '70s or '80s demanded trades or longer contracts halfway through the season? How would that work out?

    Most of the time it's the marquee players that have the majority of the power. Franchises do whatever is possible to keep their superstars happy, and if the player ever grows unsatisfied and demands a trade or doesn't display maximum effort, the organization could be set back for years.

    We saw a prime example of this in the summer, when LeBron James held all of the cards when it came to free agency and Carmelo Anthony (reportedly) privately demanded a trade from the Denver Nuggets.

    So which players are the most manipulative and controlling to their respective organizations? Here are 10 guys that probably have more power and say over the franchise than their owners.

10. Every Player with a Bad Contract

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    DeSagana Diop with a five year, $32 million contract.

    Brendan Haywood getting a $55 million deal.

    Samuel Dalembert somehow getting $64 million across six years.

    Charlie Villanueva receiving $35 million the year before the biggest free agent class ever.

    The list goes on and on. And it's the owners' fault for shelling out these ridiculous contracts and giving players the power.

    But contracts like these can cripple teams for years and control the direction of the franchise.

9. Tracy McGrady

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    It might seem like an odd choice to have a player making as little impact as McGrady on the list but his body of work throughout his entire career is impressive.

    Toronto had T-Mac in his early years but he didn't want to play in his cousin's shadow, so the team was forced to trade him to Orlando.

    He never had much success as a member of the Magic, aside from famously taking a 3-1 lead against the Pistons and saying "it feels good be in the second round" before Orlando ultimately lost that series.

    Because the Magic were stuck with his and Grant Hill's contract, they were unable to construct a contender. So he was dealt to Houston for 50 cents on the dollar (the Magic got Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato in return).

    At the tail end of his time in Houston, after several knee and back injuries, it was rumored that the Rockets would be interested in dealing the former All-Star. Almost in spite, McGrady had season-ending knee surgery days before the deadline, thus ruining any trade value he would have and ensuring he wouldn't be ready to go at the beginning of the next season.

    And perhaps in his most impressive coup, even after everyone saw for a solid year that he didn't have anything left and couldn't really contribute much anymore, he got the Pistons to ink him to a deal...even though a guy like Allen Iverson is reduced to playing overseas.

    Teams spent a lot of money to build around a guy who wanted to switch teams every few years and never made it out of the first round of the playoffs.

    I'd say that's a guy with a lot of control and sway.

8. Gilbert Arenas

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    Where do you even start with Gilbert?

    Even with prior troubles, the Wizards made him the face of the organization with an $111 million contract in 2008.

    Since then he's had knee problems, been suspended for bringing a gun into the locker room, and faked an injury to get more playing time for one of the bench reserves.

    This is one of those situations where it's entirely the organization's fault for giving one player (specifically, one who is not a franchise player) so much power and control.

    But Arenas has manipulated that trust with his behavior—he's shown no responsibility and made several decisions (on and off-court) that has set the Wizards organization back a few years from where they were the in the mid-2000s.

7. Vince Carter

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    Vince makes the list solely because of his actions in Toronto.

    His famous quote in 2004 was, "it's just time for me to look after me." And despite the fact that he was paid like a franchise All-Star, he didn't play like it.

    He even admitted as much afterwards, saying he played games at half-speed and gave just enough effort to make it look like he cared.

    Because of his actions the Raptors were forced to trade him without getting fair value—in fact, they got nothing substantial in return at all.

    Now that's manipulation of an organization at its highest level.

6. Dwyane Wade

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    Maybe Dwyane Wade helped manipulate the free agent market by luring his friends LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join him in South Beach.

    Maybe he didn't. We'll probably never know how it all went down.

    But forget manipulation for a second and focus on control. Few players in the 2000's had as big of a sway or influence on what went on in the front office as Wade.

    Ever since he entered the league, the Heat has been known as Wade's team. He was the anchor on an overachieving playoff team in his first few years.

    He wanted an upgrade on the roster so the team pulled off a deal for Shaquille O'Neal.

    He wanted help via free agency so the Heat cleared cap room to recruit players in the biggest offseason free agency class in years.

    He never manipulated the organization to get his own way but what he expected of the organization was made very clear.

    Remember the game last year when he hit the game-winning three, jumped on the scorer's table and pointed to his jersey screaming "this is my town!"?

    Miami really is Wade's city.

5. Baron Davis

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    A guy who basically plays on his own terms, Davis manipulates any situation he is to what best suits him at the time.

    He loves to play on the biggest of stages. And to his credit, when there's an important game, he brings his best effort.

    But when it's not, or if he's stuck on a bad team, he mentally checks out. He goes through games loafing from the three-point line to three-point line on both ends, taking quick shots and not looking to get anyone involved.

    Instead of training and staying in shape in the offseason to lead a young team that needs his veteran presence, he showed up to training camp out of shape and immediately suffered a knee injury that knocked him out for nearly a month.

    Somehow every year he always convinces (not directly but indirectly) fans and teams alike that he'll be completely dedicated to the game.

    And we always fall for it, hoping that this is the year he fully displays his talents...only it comes in spurts, not consistently.

4. Shaquille O'Neal

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    Teams that sign O'Neal, especially at this point of his career, know that they're getting a guy that plays by his own rules.

    It started early in his career when the Magic gave him too much responsibility. But he spurned Orlando when he decided he wanted to live the glitz and glamor life in Los Angeles.

    Several times in his career he put off surgery to when it best suited him. As a result, he'd miss countless regular season games.

    He'd show up to training camp overweight and out of shape.

    And every time he has left a city, he always burned bridges by throwing former coaches or teammates under the proverbial bus.

    There is no denying Shaq's talents, nor am I trying to suggest that he feels he is above the team. Everyone who has ever played with him at the time talks about what a great teammate he is.

    But he plays his own game and will manipulate whatever organization he is apart of at some point.

3. Kobe Bryant

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    No player and team in the league go as synonymously together as Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. And every time Kobe has somewhat pushed the organization, they quietly allow it.

    It depends on what you believe, but it's more than likely that Kobe was the one who forced Shaquille out of Los Angeles. He went to the front office and probably said "it's him or me."

    The Lakers chose Kobe.

    They allowed him to attempt to pick a new coach. He heavily recruited Mike Krzyzewski to join the Lakers but the latter ultimately passed to remain at Duke.

    When he said a trade was more than likely imminent on a radio interview in 2007, he said a trade was probably best for everyone involved. Only that was one time where the Lakers stood pat.

    Instead, a few months later, they were sent a gift basket from Memphis that included Pau Gasol and allowed L.A. to eventually ink Bryant to a long-term deal that would ensure he'd be a Laker for life.

    Behind the scenes, Kobe (especially young, immature Kobe) was probably a real handful. But the Lakers put up with it for the sake of winning.

    And it's paid huge dividends.

2. Carmelo Anthony

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    All because of his actions in the past five months.

    He left a contract extension from Denver on the table and multiple reports surfaced that he wanted to be dealt. When it looked like the Nuggets might have a deal on the table, it was nixed.

    Several outlets say that it was because Anthony insisted on being traded to the Knicks and putting a halt on any other deal.

    He's still playing in Denver and putting up decent numbers, but when you watch him you can just tell something is missing from his game. Something is off.

    And his requests have no doubt had an impact on how his team is playing as well.

    Give the Nuggets credit though—so far they've stood pat and won't give Anthony away for substantially less than he's worth.

    But it's a blinking contest they will ultimately lose. He won't play there next season and they probably won't get a fair deal for him.

    And Anthony will win. He manipulated this situation perfectly and will get to play where he wants—probably for the money he wants as well.

1. LeBron James

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    From the minute he stepped foot into the Cavaliers franchise, James was given everything he could possibly want.

    The team was fearful of upsetting or disturbing him so they gave his friends jobs within the organization. They allowed him to defy the coach, to throw temper tantrums when he was unhappy, to push everyone on the coaching staff or in the front office as far as they would allow him to push.

    And James wasn't shy about manipulating all he was given to his advantage.

    He did this summer with free agency as well. Despite the fact that there were so many marquee names available, he made all of the headlines about him.

    Even though three great players wound up in Miami, the media focused on him in particular because of his "Decision."

    He's attempted to do the same things in Miami as well and that's probably why there have been so many articles posted about the Heat organization saying "no" to LeBron the way the Cavs didn't.

    A true manipulator in every sense, James has found ways his entire career to make the spotlight shine on him and his brand name...and he will continue to do the same.