I love my mom. She’s great. She raised me to be the man I am today and motivated me to become a writer by consistently nagging me to become an engineer or doctor. To me, if asked at this particular moment, she is indispensable. That being said, if Gregg Popovich came back with a counter offer asking for my mom to be a part of the Kawhi Leonard trade, I would pack her bags myself. I hear the weather is nice in San Antonio.

For the most part, we’re pretty good at viewing trades as business transactions, with the services of one person exchanged for the services of another. Every now and again though, a trade happens where the subject isn’t just another player, but a symbol. Be it of our past success, of commitment to the franchise or that all-encompassing word invented to reduce an athlete’s agency: loyalty.

So let’s talk about loyalty.

It doesn’t exist.

Done. Good talk guys.

Just kidding.

However, we did make the exception for some of the recent high profile transactions allowing ourselves to view them through the prism of loyalty rather than team improvement (we may have simmered down as time went on, but the initial reactions remained). To make sure these trades get appropriately ranked in the pantheon of sports transactions we decided to go back and take a look at some, but instead of deciding whether or not they were team’s breaking some “unspoken bond” we investigated whether the teams made the right decision when emotion was removed from the equation.

The Indianapolis Colts Drop Peyton Manning

One of the greatest QBs to ever do it. The man who brought a Superbowl title to Indianapolis (and not just to visit), Peyton Manning, was coming off of four surgeries to repair his neck back in 2012. So Indiana decided it was time to not pay him his $28-million option bonus and moved on to their budding young superstar Andrew Luck.

While teams don’t tend to shower lifers with an exuberant amount of cash towards the back end of their careers (Kobe Bryant geriatric retirement tour notwithstanding), they at least try to work out an amicable departure situation. In cases where the start can still bring value such as mentorship or even quality playing time, they tend to grandfather in legacy deals such as Dirk Nowitzki’s at Dallas (although I’m fairly confident he has silent shares in at least one of Mark Cuban’s ventures). I expected Peyton to be a Colt for life. The Colts expected $28-million to be too high a price tag for that.

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Was It Worth It?

For a second there? Maybe. The Colts were one game from the Superbowl in 2014, defeating Manning’s Broncos before getting dismantled by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Since then, they’ve failed to even make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Manning returned to have one of the best statistical seasons in NFL history, managed two more Superbowl appearances, and even won his second ring (albeit on the back of Von Miller) before riding off into the sunset to do cheesy insurance commercials and possibly call his brother to rant about his performances. So, probably not.

Montreal Canadiens Ship P.K. Subban to Nashville

This was possibly one of the worst breakups in recent sports history. It was so bad, it’s likely that we’ll get a 30-for-30 and a straight-to-Showtime movie sometime in the future with Dule Hill taking on the role of Subban. On the plus side, if this trade didn’t cause mass riots in Montreal, nothing ever will. So the city can rest easy.

Amidst speculation about the defenseman’s personality causing a rift in the locker room, the storied Quebecois franchise decided they ‘had enough’ and moved on from Subban. Some hockey traditionalists thought it was a blessing, and described Subban as selfish and a showboat. Others placed the proper value on his passion and enthusiasm for the game, and argued Montreal had made a massive mistake.

What was shocking was how quickly the team moved on from Subban, especially after he had pledged his allegiance to the city, announcing a $10 million commitment to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

Was It Worth It?

We’re still sorting through the embers of possibly one of the most significant trades in franchise history, but considering the Predators and Subban made the Stanley Cup Finals in the first year of their union, while the Canadiens flamed out in the first round and then failed to make the playoffs, it’s not looking great so far. Plus, unless they can somehow move mountains to get out from under his contract, Montreal is looking at a $7.8 mil cap hit for Shea Weber into 2026. To make matters worse, some Canadiens’ fans have turned on management as a result of the deal. When the Predators were making their Cup run, a bar in Montreal named Chez Serge (no relation) renamed itself Chez Subban and was an active place of shelter for all Subban fans still willing to cheer for their former star.

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The Boston Celtics Don’t Treat IT2 as an Asset

How do you reward a player who left it all on the court for you while also suiting up for the team amidst deep, personal trauma to give a city something to hope for? You trade him in a package that visibly devalues his own status as an asset and then have your fanbase fire off tweets attacking him for the rest of the season of course. How else?

Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics surprised everyone in 2016/17 when they raced to first in the East, and an Eastern Conference Finals date with the Cavaliers. A team without a clear-cut superstar leading the pack, coached by a basketball savant and powered by the biggest engine in the smallest body they were living the dream before hitting LeBron-shaped reality.

That summer, Danny Ainge unceremoniously moved on from Isaiah Thomas, who left everything (including his health) on the court for his team in a trade that emphasized more the value of a pick and Jae Crowder than IT. Was his assessment accurate, objectively yes, but if we’re talking about loyalty and commitment to someone who, even if just for a season, replaced all of his blood with Celtic green like it was some sort of St. Patrick’s day wager it was still what I would describe a “bitch-ass move” by Ainge.

Was It Worth It?

Objectively? Yes, yes it was. The Celtics netted Gordon Hayward in addition to Irving and managed to play to within one game of NBA Finals without either of those two on the court. Isaiah Thomas struggled to come back from injury and then struggled to integrate himself into a reduced role under the pasha of basketball, LeBron James. IT is now playing a minimum while the Celtics are gearing up for years of contention. So yes, it was, but I hope Danny Ainge can’t sleep at night.

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Masai Ujiri, Maybe, Possibly, Lies to DeMar DeRozan?

Odds are, even Masai was surprised when the Spurs asked for DeMar DeRozan in a package for Kawhi Leonard. He probably shipped out an offer that did not include DDR and focused instead around Kyle Lowry and some youth. But then the Spurs came back with a counter and the rest is history.

Yes, DeMar is probably a victim of miscommunication and has the right to be upset. After a career in the Great White North, DeRozan pledged his loyalty to Toronto despite the siren call of his native Sunny California. He remained a Raptor “for life” (his words not Masai’s) and wanted to put the franchise on his back. That kind of commitment forms a strong bond with the fans. The sort of bond that leads to the fanbase throwing a riot on Twitter when DeMar got traded. Then again, that same fanbase would probably crucify Masai had he not taken this trade and we found out about it later, so you can’t really win them all.

Was It Worth It?

This one is really TBD. DeMar is yet to play for the Spurs and Kawhi is yet to play meaningful basketball since about February so we don’t really know. The Raptors, however, got a top-5 player when healthy and in the worst case, shed a lot of salary en-route to a possible rebuild (if they have to). If Kawhi leaves, it will all come down to how Paskal, OG and to some extent Delon Wright and Fred Van Vleet turn out. If Kawhi stays, I will source the materials for a Masai Ujiri statue myself.

In the end, none of these trades will ever be measured by how loyal the team was or wasn’t to a player. We will all have our Twitter moment before moving on and checking the record. You know why? Because loyalty in sports does not exist. It’s something we, the fans, tend to imbue upon our players or teams because it makes our relationship with them that much more special than a simple business transaction in which we pay money to watch a game either on TV or live. So really, as long as you keep paying the price of admission, it was worth it for the team.