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  • Fred

Professional Brats

Note: Imagine me, in a rocking chair, shaking a cane at my grandson. 'Back in my day, athletes only made a million dollars a year. They never had these 9 figure professional contracts...'

With that being said, the recent case of Neymar forcing his way off of Barcelona and into Ligue 1 is yet another disturbing case of a successful athlete throwing a temper tantrum because they weren't "the man." What we have today is basically a wave of Professional Brats. Below are the Top 5 recent offenders:

Kyrie Irving - Age 25

Fact: Kyrie Irving has been in the NBA Finals for the last 3 years straight with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Fact: Kyrie Irving helped the United States win a gold medal in the 2016 Olympics.

Fact: Kyrie Irving is in the middle of a 5 year, $95 million contract.

Fact: Kyrie Irving has the Best-Selling Basketball Sneaker on the market right now.

Somehow, someway, Kyrie Irving is unhappy. Now everyone has their own secrets and issues, but Irving's semi-public stance on why he wants to be traded? He doesn't want to be the second option on a championship caliber team. He wants his own team. Lots of professional athletes want to be traded because they're on a losing team, or aren't getting paid, or they're worried about their "brand," but the Kyrie Irving trade demand is a whole different level of this abstract concept of being "the man." Listening to people actually defend Irving, saying that professional athletes live in a different world then the rest of us, is equally maddening.

So unless he's traded to the Golden State Warriors, which isn't going to happen, he's willing to give up a supermax contract with the Cavs, go to a worse team, and potentially damage his brand, just so he can be out of the shadow of LeBron. That is the very definition of the conceited athlete.

Editor's Note: Don't get me started on how someone who believes the earth is flat got into Duke. Either his agent or his PR guy made him walk that crap back to cover up his stupidity.

Neymar - Age 25

Fact: Neymar has been part of a Barcelona team that has won nearly everything in the past 4 years. FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Supercopa de Espana, the Copa del Rey, La Liga, basically everything you could win as a club team in Spain.

Fact: Neymar helped lead Brazil to a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics as a member of the U-23 team and won the Bronze Boot in the 2014 World Cup.

Fact: Neymar signed a €16 million a year contract with Barcelona for 5 years in 2016.

Fact: According to the Soccer Analytics site Who Scored? Neymar was the best soccer player in the world in 2016.

I'm a little sketchy on how international soccer transfer rules work, but with that being said....

How in the world did Neymar force his way out of La Liga? Depending on who you speak to, La Liga is one of the top 2 soccer leagues in the world. He didn't switch teams, he didn't go to the Premier League, he didn't even go to the Bundesliga, he went to the 8th best team. In France. Not even one of the Top 5 leagues in Europe. Why did Neymar do it? It wasn't about money, Neymar wanted to be out of the shadow of Lionel Messi.

Jamie Collins - Age 27

Fact: Jamie Collins was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2013 and went to the playoffs every single year that he was with the team.

Fact: Despite missing 4 games, Jamie Collins was the statistical defensive leader of the Patriots in 2015 while earning a berth in the NFL's Pro-Bowl.

Fact: The first 7 games of the 2016 season, Jamie Collins was projected to be the statistical defensive leader of the Patriots yet again.

Fact: Collins was traded to the last place Cleveland Browns in October of 2016. The Patriots didn't miss a beat and won Super Bowl LI.

Why would the Patriots trade defensive stalwart Collins? His agent was asking for Von Miller Money, 6-years-$100 million. The Patriots traded him away for a third round pick. He eventually signed an extension for 4 years-$50 million with the Cleveland Browns. Von Miller money on a team with Tom Brady? Jamie Collins wanted to be out of the shadow of one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL.

Editor's Note: Browns' team mouthpiece, Mary Kay Cabot, recently wrote a nice article trying to rehabilitate his image. My problem is, looking at 2017's Salary Cap space tracker, couldn't Collins have signed the same deal that he signed with the Browns last year while he was still with the Patriots?

Oscar - Age 25

Fact: Oscar scored a hat trick in the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup Final against Portugal.

Fact: Oscar was on the Team of the Tournament in the 2014 World Cup for Brazil.

Fact: Oscar was one of the leaders of the 2015 Chelsea team that won the Premiership and was in the Top 20 in the League in assists.

Fact: Oscar took a transfer to the Chinese SuperLeague during the transfer window of 2016 and Chelsea continued to win the 2017 Premiership, again.

I really think the Guardian (UK) could explain this situation much better than I could:

Oscar, an increasingly peripheral figure at Chelsea, is the latest to be tempted and, however much his impending £60m transfer to Shanghai SIPG is dressed up, it is difficult not to think it deeply unsatisfying to see someone of his age abandoning any real sense of ambition and, without wishing to be too cruel, a certain amount of respectability. At 25, he is approaching what should be the greatest years of his career, even if it seems apparent they will not be with his current club. He is also exceedingly rich already, most people would assume, after four and a half years on Chelsea’s payroll, and surely talented enough to attract potential buyers from Europe’s top leagues. Good luck to him, I suppose, but however many noughts are added to his salary, I do wonder how much job satisfaction there can be for a footballer with his gifts at a level several rungs down even from Major League Soccer. - Daniel Taylor, spot on at the Guardian (UK)

Oscar was not only fearful of playing in the shadow of other great players at Chelsea, but of his coach Antonio Conte.

Oscar causing trouble in China 2 months ago.

(Which netted him an 8-game suspension.)

Dwight Howard - Age 25-31

(Lifetime Achievement Award)

At the end of the 2012 NBA season, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard came in 7th in the MVP voting. Despite his dominance in Orlando, the Magic only finished 6th in the East and was quickly out of the playoffs in only 5 games. Only two years before, the Magic were in the Eastern Conference Finals and Howard was displeased. Very displeased. He had whined that he wanted out of Orlando for 2 years and it is here where we start to document Dwight's "Dwightmare." (Yes, there's even a term for it.) The broken promise that Howard refers to is that he asked for a trade out of Orlando, then didn't get it fast enough.

With still a year left on his contract of $18 million+ a year, Howard finally forced his way out of town and on to the Lakers. The Orlando Magic were decimated, fired their front office, and finished 20-62. The Los Angeles Lakers parlayed the Kobe Bryant/Dwight Howard matchup into yet another championship for the Lakers....

Whoa, whoa, whoa, what do you mean the Lakers didn't win the Championship? They had Kobe (3rd in MVP voting the year before) and Dwight (7). That season the Lakers fired their coach, finished 7th in the West, Kobe got hurt, and the team was shut out in the first round of the playoffs.

Dwight Howard then took the first train out of town with Kobe's shoe still in his ass. Signing with the Houston Rockets, it was the Lakers' turn to suffer, finishing their next year 27-55. The Rockets, with the 1-2 punch of James Hardin/Dwight Howard finished 54-28, only to be escorted out in the first round of the playoffs.

The 2014-15 Houston Rockets, that was the year. 56-26. A team that went to the Conference Finals, the stars had finally aligned for Dwight Howard. At $20 million+ a year, his salary was more than twice of anyone else on the team except for Hardin and they were winning big. The start of 2015 found the Rockets as one of the favorites in the West. They stumbled out of the block, fired their coach, finished 41-41, and were unceremoniously dumped in the first round. Again.

Two items stood out from that 2015-2016 team. Despite finishing at .500, James Hardin came in 9th in the MVP voting. On March 30, 2016 Howard set a franchise record for free throws missed in a game, with 15 in a road victory over the Cavaliers.

The next season, the Rockets without Howard actually got better and finished 55-27. Dwight Howard returned to Atlanta to play for the Hawks, apparently he needed some home cookin'. Despite signing yet another $20 million+ a year contract, the Hawks only went 43-39, and were out of the playoffs in the first round.

The Hawks quickly ejected hometown "favorite" Howard and sent him to the 36-46 Charlotte Hornets.

Now calling Dwight Howard a 'Brat' may seem mean, but how about this quote from April of this year:

And, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, this was my takeaway: Howard is an abomination to the game of basketball and may well be the worst player in NBA history. - The Ringer

The article by the Ringer is really quite enlightening. They continue, later in that same article "Howard’s transformation from an unstoppable physical freak into a guy who can’t be bothered to break a sweat is the thing that I find the most fascinating."

By the time Howard is finished with the Hornets (or whoever the Hornets trade him to), Dwight Howard will have earned over $200 million in the NBA. He is absolutely laughing all the way to the bank and will probably be elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame after he retires. Yet....

There was an article in the Sporting News about NBA players who changed teams in their prime. Dwight Howard was #25 for his move from Orlando to Los Angeles in 2012. Now the Lakers went on to the playoffs that year and the Orlando Magic went on to be a demolition site, but somehow, the Magic won the trade. Clearly. Howard managed to play through pain in his one season with the Lakers, but he clashed so much with Kobe Bryant that he did not re-sign with the team. (Bynum was a disaster for the 76ers, and Iguodala left Denver in a tiff.) Howard still has never quite regained his stature as an elite player despite having been arguably the best player in the NBA for the 2010-11 season, just one year before the move. - Sporting News

It's hard to delineate between Howard being a Brat and Howard being a Bust, because he wanted to be "the Man." Then he didn't want to be the Man. Then he wanted to be the Man. Then didn't want to be the Man. His desire to lead a franchise shifted with the way the wind was blowing. He also left behind a litany of fired coaches, fired executives, and dismayed teammates. The refraim was always the same. Dwight was a nice guy, too bad things didn't go better for the team on the court.

The shadow Dwight Howard didn't want to play in? Make believe shadows of players not on the court with him. (Or, more simply, Shaq.)

If you returned to the the end of the 2011-2012 season, if Howard would have only played out his contract on a winning team without demanding a trade, maybe his legacy would have been different. He had already made $80 million in 8 years in Orlando, but he couldn't, because he was a ....well, you read the title.

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