Decade Debate: 10 Biggest Betrayals

To betray is to “be disloyal to one’s country, organization, or ideology by acting in the interests of an enemy.” In the world of sports, a betrayal can refer to any number of things: a beloved star choosing to play for a bitter rival, someone who breaks the public’s trust or even a head coach who lies to his boss about where his loyalties lie. As part of our ongoing Decade Debate series, we chose the ten biggest betrayals of the last ten years. (By the way, we’re focused on sports business related betrayals only, so Tiger Woods, Mike Vick and Roger Clemens are safe. For now.)

10. NHL cancels the 2004-05 season.

After failing for months to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, the NHL finally canceled the 2004-05 season in February of ’05. The dispute between the owners and the NHLPA covered a number of issues, but the biggest was the owners’ proposal of a salary cap that was tied to league revenues, similar to the NBA salary cap. The NHLPA rejected every offer that included a salary cap and the season had to be canceled. A majority of fans blamed the players due to their out-of-control salaries and unwillingness to accept a cap, which is something that both the NBA and NFL – two very successful leagues — have in different forms. Finally, in the summer of 2005, the players association ratified an agreement (which – surprise, surprise — included a salary cap tied to league revenue) and the lockout ended after 310 days. It marks the only time that a North American professional sports league ever canceled and entire season over a labor dispute. In the end, the NHLPA’s stubbornness was fruitless; the owners got their salary cap and the fans got screwed out of year of hockey. Way to go, guys. – John Paulsen

9. Damon skips Bean Town for the Big Apple.

There are some things in life that are just wrong. One is watching any of the “Twilight” movies alone as a single man. Another is flossing in public. Wearing sandals with a nice pair of slacks is also a terrible idea. Regardless of your opinion of these faux pas, we can all agree that a player jumping ship from the Red Sox to the Yankees (or vice versa) is a huge no-no. Babe Ruth never wanted to leave – he was sold. But guys like former Red Sox manger Ed Barrow (took over as Yankees GM), Wade Boggs, and Johnny Damon – they had a choice. Only one season removed from helping the BoSox capture their first World Series since 1918, Damon signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Bronx Bombers. The Red Sox Nation cried “foul,” but Damon claimed his former team didn’t push further than their initial four-year, $40 million offer. Nevertheless, the fans felt slighted. Damon had flourished in Boston, racking up career numbers and gaining celebrity status. He hit the memorable leadoff homerun in Game 4 of the 2004 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The blast was all the Red Sox needed to extinguish the curse. (They would go on to win the game 3-0 and the World Series in a sweep.) But he was gone, ready to face the chorus of boos from former fans, and prepped to win a championship in pinstripes four years later. In the end, a t-shirt I saw at a Fenway Park merchant’s booth said it all. A crude picture of Damon adorned the front: “Looks like Jesus, throws like Mary.” – Christopher Glotfelty

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2008 NBA Preview: #8 Philadelphia 76ers

Offseason Movement: The Sixers probably had the biggest “get” of the offseason when they signed Elton Brand to a long-term deal. So the same team that gave the Pistons a good run in the playoffs is now adding an All-Star caliber player who, along with Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh, might be the best power forward in the East.
Keep Your Eye On: Thaddeus Young
At just 19 and largely ignored, Young had the highest PER of any rookie in the league who played at least 1,000 minutes. He only saw limited minutes in the first two months of the season, but by February, he was seeing 29 minutes a game and was posting an average of 11.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting a stellar 56% from the field. He has an improving long-range jumper and, simply stated, Young has “future star” written all over him.
The Big Question: Can Brand (and Andre Iguodala) lead this team to the Finals?
The Brand signing was a coup for the Sixers, and now that they’ve locked up both Brand and AI2 to big, long-term contracts, one wonders if they hitched their wagon to the right pair of horses. Both guys are very good NBA players, but neither guy has proven that he can be “The Man” on a championship-caliber team. The next two or three seasons will be each player’s best chance to win a title, and it’s going to be interesting to see how this young team develops over this span.
Outlook: Upbeat. While the Brand acquisition looks great on paper, it’s tough to add such a big name and expect everything to go smoothly from the get-go. Brand is coming off a nasty Achilles injury, and while he played well in limited action last season, there’s no guarantee that he’s back to 100%. Still, if they are able to gel, they look like a legitimate contender in the East. They have a strong starting five (including Young, Andre Miller and Samuel Dalembert) and a good bench, and even without Brand, they proved they could compete with the Pistons in the playoffs. All signs point to a nice year.

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