NBA players have taken more control over their careers in recent seasons, but it's clear not everyone is a fan of the changes.
"Player empowerment is a catchall for the fact that the league has done a terrible job of empowering teams," a current NBA general manager told Isaac Chotiner of the New Yorker. "The players have all of the leverage in every situation. I think it's the worst thing that ever happened to professional sports on all levels."
We have seen more players leverage their value and exercise their power over the past few years, especially when it comes to the formation of "super teams" and moves out of smaller markets.
Anthony Davis forced a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Los Angeles Lakers and won a title in his first season alongside LeBron James. Paul George worked his way to the Los Angeles Clippers to play with Kawhi Leonard and James Harden got himself traded to the Brooklyn Nets to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irivng.
The original teams chose to complete trades rather than lose an unhappy player to free agency for nothing.
On the other hand, it was the Utah Jazz that had the best record in the NBA this season, a small-market team that drafted eventual stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell before signing them to extensions. The Milwaukee Bucks have also remained perennial contenders thanks to the draft and key trades.
Fans seemingly aren't complaining with ratings up for the start of the 2021 playoffs, per Austin Karp of Sports Business Journal. The Lakers' play-in game against the Golden State Warriors drew 5.6 million viewers, per Richard Deitsch of The Athletic.
While one GM might see the empowerment of superstars as a negative, Michael Jordan's former agent David Falk noted what those players provide.
"They bring in the fans. They bring in jersey sales. They bring in the revenue," Falk told Chotiner.
Meanwhile, players hardly have the leverage in every situation, especially when it comes to money. With a salary cap for each team and max salaries for players, the biggest stars rarely get what they are truly worth to the organization.
The athletes are at least able to control their futures and use their platforms for social change, which is seemingly enough to irk some league personnel.