Free agency: the state of a professional athlete who is free to negotiate a contract to play for any team.
That is what it means to be in the free agency pool as a sports athlete in a team sport. To give you more information on what free agency means, it is an offseason event where nothing goes unnoticed, and if you’re like me, you’re glued to the TV more during it than a game itself. It’s exciting! Watching some of the greatest players in the world make filthy rich businessmen go out of their way to acquire these ballers is captivating.
Free agency is a huge ingredient in the upcoming season’s recipe. You may begin to think it propels a team to a championship a year later, but in most cases, the free agency “winner” isn’t a champion by the next season’s end. Even the Miami Heat squad that landed Chris Bosh and LeBron James, to go along with Dwyane Wade, wasn’t compatible enough (just yet) to win a championship their first year. Same could be said in the NFL where the exciting moves of the Miami Dolphins (Mike Wallace) and the Philadelphia Eagles (Nnamdi Asomugha) weren’t even enough to put them in position to succeed.
Free agency’s biggest “ingredient” if you will, could be the excitement it can generate with fanbases. Just last summer when we saw LeBron James head back to Cleveland, it gave an entire state hope, one that is in desperate need of it. To be a fan and see a former All-Star in their prime wants to come play for your favorite team, it’s one of the most hopeful feelings in the game.
And if you’re not already convinced free agency has a major impact on your fanhood, just go to your shelf of your video games, where you’ve bought the newest output of it with the same gameplay. Why? The rosters are so different year to year, you just can’t play with outdated rosters! Especially when the likes of LeBron James and Peyton Manning switched teams.
Now that I’ve took your fandom mind on a 343-word journey thus far, let me try to get you to think like a NBA player. Because many times (including myself) we’ll get upset for an athlete not choosing to go to our team, or even worse, we’ll send threatening tweets to athletes who LEAVE our favorite team to go to somewhere else. Why? He was our best chance to win and he just jumped ship to a rival.
There are three deciding factors when it comes to free agency for a player. I’ll name them and then you can do whatever with it, prioritizing them 1, 2, 3, or whatever you’d like to do. I just feel somebody needs to lay this blueprint out for the world to see.
This might be the most obvious or well-known factor. It’s money… You can never get enough money. I love to tell my dad; “Once you have one million, you want two, and once you have two million, you want three. It’s a never ending cycle.”
But to get a superstar to your team, it usually has to involve max-money or high-dollar deals. For some reason, they want 9-digit salaries over a span of 5 years. That motivation may be the luxuries of life, security, or buying nice things for people who helped get them there (and a fourth reason may be to feed the ego).
It stands true. To pursue a superstar, you must give that star something green, and lots of it. Now we understand why teams beg pricey veterans to take pay cuts or restructure deals, and why teams will release that player who has gave his heart and soul to the team for the last decade. Like it or not, this is the reality of the Salary Cap age.
We may see that word and think this is about LeBron. No, it’s more than just LeBron, it’s every player. I imagine once you’re drafted, 15 years flash before your eyes. You see fifteen years of playing in front of the same crowd and in the same jersey for the same coach and owner. You even vision confetti falling from the ceiling, once again I say, I imagine. But with a year remaining on your rookie contract, you wake up, and you see the real world – the business world. Will you be “home” next season?
This word covers the entire aspect of things. This could mean when you return to an old team of yours (ie. Kevin Garnett to Minnesota). This could have you return to your hometown where you grew up (ie. if Kevin Durant ever goes “home” to Washington). This could be returning to the place you played your college ball at (ie. LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio, TX)… Or this could quite simply mean you make that town your permanent home, by re-signing with the team that drafted you, which many players have given that “home” discount to, to stay with the same team and keep the dream alive.
Ahhh yes, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of a championship. Every player’s dream is to one day win a title and hoist the trophy above their heads. It doesn’t, quite frankly, matter the conditions. They could be the Finals MVP or the 12th man. They could win it with the team that drafted them or the team they chose in free agency to form a “super-team”. They could win it in their prime or at the tail-end of their careers. They could win all their titles for the same team or a couple with two different teams. At the end of the day, ignoramuses on social media will judge you by how many titles you won. It doesn’t matter if you were Tom Brady’s backup, but if you’re Tony Romo with zero rings, you’re labeled things like a “choker” and a “failure”. People like Romo and Philip Rivers will be said to lack the “clutch gene” and definitely could not be considered an “elite” quarterback.
Why I don’t agree with these people who lack knowledge and the love for the sport and its talented athletes to throw cliche insults at them like peanuts, I firmly believe winning a championship is in the mind of all free agents. Even if they decide to take top-dollar with the Cleveland Browns or the Sacramento Kings, they still look in the direction of the top contenders like the Green Bay Packers or the San Antonio Spurs, or they decide ultimately to remain loyal to their team no matter the situation. It’s just impossible NOT to think about, to partake in a championship parade, being just you, your local fans, your mentoring coaches, and your brethren.
So there you have it. The three deciding factors to simplify the complicated circus known as Free Agency. Remember to defer back to this during the NBA, NFL, MLB, or NHL free agencies when you want to murder the players who don’t see your team as their’s.
I’m bringing you false hope, I’m sorry. This won’t help you feel any better about your team not snagging the top players this year, or retaining the ones you had. I apologize, I should have put a warning label up at the top that you’d feel like a New York Knick for receiving false hope for your team. To fix this, I’ll put a disclaimer below.
DISCLAIMER: This article was not to provide you hope for your team landing a superstar, or to raise your hope in your team’s championship aspirations.