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The Anthony Davis saga and the rise of NBA player empowerment

Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans (for now) has the whole NBA shook right now.  The five-time all-star recently requested a trade from his current squad in a move that has shocked many.

A lot of people are speculating that LeBron is responsible for all of this chaos.  But, let’s take a few steps back first.

Davis is signed by Klutch Sports Group and Rich Paul, who is also a childhood friend of LeBron James.  After a dinner with LeBron earlier this week, Davis made his wishes to leave the Pelicans public.

For his actions, Davis was fined $50,000 by the New Orleans Pelicans and could be facing more penalties. But that’s not the real story here.

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People around the league have been speculating that Davis would eventually end up playing with LeBron out in LA.  We don’t think anyone saw it happening this way, though.

This is just the latest in what has turned into a long line of players making demands to leave their teams when not happy with their situations.

It all started with LeBron back in 2010, when he decided to build a super-team in Miami with his homies Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Since then, we’ve other superstars like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Kawhi Leonard control their own destinies with immense amounts of power.

This phenomenon has been uniquely exclusive to the NBA.  It’s no surprise, however, that this is the league for it to happen in.

Unlike other sports, basketball is the one game where one player can really change the outlook of a franchise.  And the NBA has fully embraced this.

The NBA markets their stars better than any other league.  People like Steph Curry, LeBron, and Durant have all become household names. It’s enabled players like these to build their own brands, and maybe more importantly, their own voices.

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NBA superstars are more accessible than stars of other leagues like the NFL or MLB. Fans are able to connect with them and their personalities in ways that other sports have not.

Players like James Harden, Dwayne Wade, and Russell Westbrook have become fashion icons for NBA players.  While players like LeBron and Curry have used their visibility to weigh in on political matters.

LeBron articulated this sentiment in an episode of his HBO series ‘The Shop’ perfectly. While discussing the differences between the NFL and NBA, James discusses his admiration for commissioner Adam Silver and how he treats players.

I’m so appreciative in our league of our commissioner. He doesn’t mind us having … a real feeling and to be able to express that. It doesn’t even matter if Adam agrees with what we are saying, he at least wants to hear us out. As long as we are doing it in a very educational, non-violent way, then he’s absolutely OK with it.

In the episode, LeBron also asserts that NFL owners are a bunch of old white men with a slave owner mentality.  They treat players like interchangeable parts who will only be kept around if own they as the owner says.

NFL players haven’t been given nearly the kind of agency that NBA players are afforded.  The one player we did see use his position to voice concerns about political and social matters, Colin Kaepernick, hasn’t played an NFL game in over two years.

The willingness of the NBA as a whole to allow players to be their own people has lead to situations like Anthony Davis’.  Players realize that they are the driving force in what makes their team and league great.

With that knowledge, players decided to not just sit back and let coaches and ownership make all of the important decisions.  LeBron has opened the door for players to take the power into their own hands and be the driving forces in their own futures.