Jul 11, 2019 - Sports

The profound impact of the NBA's nomadic era

Kawhi Leonard. Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

We've reached the point in the NBA's ever-evolving player empowerment era where fans must simply accept that their team's best players will probably leave at some point.

Why it matters: These days, it feels like the best — heck, maybe the only— way to follow the NBA is to be a fan of the league as a whole rather than rooting for one team.

  • When new players arrive and are offered ungodly sums of money to stick around, there's no guarantee that they will (see: Kawhi Leonard only signing for two guaranteed years with the Clippers instead of four).
  • This is having a profound impact on everything from team building to player legacies, but I'm not sure we've fully grasped how big of an impact it's having on modern NBA fandom.

There are pros and cons to this situation...

Pro: When you follow the league as a whole and watch the drama unfold like a reality show, suddenly a Tuesday night game between two random teams becomes interesting. That's a plus for fans (always something to watch) and the NBA (can sell more League Pass subscriptions).

  • Con: With players switching teams like never before and rosters constantly in flux, it's become increasingly difficult for fans to fully invest in one team. As a result, will we see the connective tissue between teams and cities begin to deteriorate? Could ticket sales plummet?

Pro: Thanks to the insanity of free agency, the NBA offseason has become almost as popular, if not more popular, than the season itself. This has helped the league stay relevant year-round.

  • Con: Is that actually a good thing? If fans are constantly looking to the future rather than focusing on the present, the whole idea of, ya know, winning games can get lost amidst the trade proposals and free agency rumors.

The bottom line: The NBA's nomadic era means more headlines, more tweets and more drama than ever before. But at what cost?

Go deeper: China is searching for NBA success

Go deeper