If it seems like Dwyane Wade has wisely chosen not to leave the bench area during this LeBron James versus the ex-Celtics scuffle, it's because Wade already offered the definitive words on the subject. They came in a tweet on March 15, 2012, when he wrote: "Loyalty hahahahaha."
Wade was responding to a Dwight Howard news conference, the one where Howard professed his desire to stay in Orlando because he was loyal, the one that came two franchises ago for Dwight.
Loyalty is the most misguided and abused concept in professional sports. Why should there be an unbreakable bond formed as soon as the commissioner says a player's name after a team on draft night? Heck, some of the players barely have time to adjust their caps before they're traded somewhere else. And they're at the whim of management for the rest of their careers.
Fan loyalty is an overstated commodity as well. Peer pressure and unwritten rules forbid changing allegiances, even though their favored team can turn over the roster, sell the team to new owners or even move. We're free to switch cable or satellite TV providers or cellphone service carriers, but we're not allowed to change teams? Who authored that constitutional amendment?
This time around, James took the lead on the topic of loyalty and the fallout for leaving.
It's a subject that hits to home with James.
"I'm the No. 1 relater," he told reporters.
That sentence was quintessential LeBron; he often raises valid points in an awkward or improper way. It's fair to point out that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce called out Ray Allen for leaving the Celtics for an Eastern Conference rival last season, before they did the same thing this season. But to imply that Garnett and Pierce owe Allen an apology? Well, he might be better served waiting for dogs to quote Winston Churchill.
In a way, LeBron chose the proper path for this discussion. It sounds better for him to say "They were wrong for that" than for him to say "I was right."
Because the past two seasons have been nothing if not a LeBron validation tour. He was right to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. Among a populace that increasingly measures ability strictly by counting championship rings, he put himself in the best position to win multiple times. Then he did so. It didn't hurt that he drove interest in the NBA along the way.
Allen was right as well. He got the additional championship he sought (even if he had to take a pay cut to get it), and in the process, he gave us one of the great moments in NBA Finals history, a series-, career- and franchise-altering shot.
Do you think either of them had any regrets as they soaked in the sunshine and the cheers during the championship parade down Biscayne Boulevard?
Garnett and Pierce will be just as devoid of guilt when they're in the playoffs while the Celtics are sitting at home.
The problem is, the last thing people want to hear is "I told you so." Next-to-last is "Hey, they did it too."
So yes, better to let the results speak for themselves. Or to refer to case precedent. In this instance, a simple retweet would have sufficed.
"@KingJames: RT @DwyaneWade Loyalty hahahahaha."
And what gives Wade the authority to tweet on the subject?
Wade is the only active first-round pick from the 2003 draft who has spent his entire career with the team that drafted him. Well, technically Nick Collison is with the same team, but he was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics, who left town and became the Oklahoma City Thunder. The fact that previous sentence exists is why it's unreasonable to expect players or fans to pledge undying loyalty.