Broken Promises: 15 NBA Players Who Betrayed Their Teams

Some fans cope by burning jerseys. Others imagine what could have been. Some thank the players for all they have done while wishing them the best.

Nothing breaks an NBA fan's heart quite like seeing a star leave a franchise for greener pastures, whether it be in free agency or by forcing the front office to cut their losses and trade them for whatever they can get. NBA history is chalk full of ring-chasers and complacent stars, which creates a great deal of anguish, schadenfreude and good old fashioned fun for us fans. However, we all have different ways of dealing with the disappointment when it does hit us.

Some fans cope by burning jerseys. Others imagine what could have been. Some thank the players for all they have done while wishing them the best of luck in their career's next chapter. Others spite at every mention of that player's name.

And though it is hard when an NBA super star dumps your favourite team, if it weren't for broken promises and betrayals, the NBA wouldn't be what it is today as these treacheries have been the foundation for some of the best storylines in professional basketball.

They say time heals all wounds, but die hard fans won't soon forget the pain of being betrayed by hometown heroes. These are 15 NBA players that broke their promises and betrayed their teams.

15 Karl Malone


After 18 seasons with the Utah Jazz, the Mailman left Salt Lake City and the franchise he had become the face of in free agency with the hope of winning a championship with the Jazz's sworn nemesis: Shaq and Kobe's Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers also managed to sign All-Star point guard Gary Payton to form one of the first super teams in NBA history.

Although many fans would likely give Karl Malone a pass for teaming up with Shaq, Kobe and the Glove to chase the championship that had eluded him time and time again in his final year of his career, Malone took a $17.7 million pay cut to wear purple and gold. He agreed to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million after his $19.2 million a year deal with the Jazz expired.

14 Jason Kidd

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

After defeating the Miami Heat in 2011 NBA Finals, Jason Kidd told Mark Cuban that he would play for two more years and then transition into a front office role. What happened next is unknown but Kidd decided to sign with the Knicks the same afternoon he had agreed to sign with the Mavs.

What must have really drove Mark Cuban crazy was that Kidd signed with the Knicks for the same number of years and for the exact same amount of money, 3 years and $9.3 million. The sudden change of heart led Cuban to declare that the organization would not put J. Kidd's number in the rafters, which is a strong statement considering what he was able to do for the Maverick's organization.

13 Tracy McGrady


Tracy McGrady and his older cousin Vince Carter transformed the Toronto Raptors into a legitimate NBA franchise from 1998 to 2000. In those two seasons, the explosive cousins got the Raptors their first-ever winning season in 2000, going 45-37, as well as the franchise's playoff appearance, a 3-0 sweep by the New York Knicks but an important milestone nonetheless.

The future was looking bright in Toronto with the two, young swingmen who could jump out of the gym, but it all fell apart when McGrady signed a six-year, $67.5 million contract with the Orlando Magic. The allure of playing alongside Grant Hill in front of friends and family was too strong for a young McGrady and the Raptors would struggle to maintain relevance. To make matters worse, McGrady told Vince Carter on ESPN's The Jump in 2013 that he regretted leaving the Raptors, believing that the two of them could have been a contender for years to come.

12 Carlos Boozer

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Way back in the summer of 2004, the Cleveland Cavaliers had the option of allowing Carlos Boozer to become a restricted free agent or exercising a team option to keep him under contract for one more year at a measly $695,000. The Cavs claimed to have agreed to a deal that would pay Boozer $39 million over six years.

For Boozer to sign this new deal, the Cavs released him from his contract, making him a restricted free agent. He then signed a six-year, $70 million offer sheet from the Utah Jazz, which Cleveland couldn't match because of their salary cap situation. With Boozer, Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur, the Jazz became a threat in the Western Conference, but it cost Boozer his reputation in Ohio.

11 Steve Nash

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadian point guard was coming off back-to-back All Star appearances and two consecutive 52 or more wins with the Dallas Mavericks when he hit free agency in 2004. Despite these achievements, Mark Cuban was reluctant to sign Steve Nash to a long, lucrative contract extension, having already committed roughly $50 million in salaries to Samaki Walker, Michael Finley, Antawn Jamison and Dirk Nowitzki.

Steve Nash, meanwhile, received a six-year, $63 million contract from the Phoenix Suns. He waited for Maverick's owner Mark Cuban to up his initial four-year deal worth about $9 million annually, with a fifth year partially guaranteed, but Cuban didn't budge. So Nash turned his back  on the team that allowed him to establish himself as a formidable point guard and made Cuban look like an absolute fool by winning two MVP awards.

10 LaMarcus Aldridge

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trailblazers didn't just lose a big man with a sweet stroke from the elbow when LaMarcus Aldridge joined the Spurs, they lost their all-time scoring leader. Tired of early playoff exits and becoming less prominent in the team's marketing efforts, LaMarcus Alridge and co. believed that the Portland Trailblazers favored point guard Damian Lillard over him, despite everything he'd done for them. Although he had once said he wanted to be "the best Blazer ever," Aldridge met with a number of suitors, eventually leading to a four-year, $80 million contract with the San Antonio Spurs.

As Kawhi Leonard's running mate, Aldridge helped guide the Spurs to 67 wins in his first season as a Spur, which was the sixth highest regular season win total in NBA history. Portland managed to scrape together a respectable 44-win season without Aldridge.

9 Chris Bosh

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

If there's one thing that Raptor fans know all too well it's that stars don't stay in Toronto. They all leave eventually, which is why some fans are still stunned by the fact that All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are still on the roster.

Chris Bosh felt like he would never be able to contend for a championship in Toronto simply because it was too difficult to recruit talent to come north of the border, which led him to abandon the Raps and join up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Without Bosh, the Raptors dropped from 9th in the Eastern Conference to 14th. As a member of the Miami Heat, Bosh helped secure two titles, much to the chagrin of Raptor fans who are still searching for their franchise's first trip to the NBA Finals.

8 Kevin Durant

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

What hasn't been said about Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors this year already? In the 2016 Western Conference Finals, back when Durant was still a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Thunder gave the Warriors a run for their money. If it hadn't been for a red-hot shooting night by Klay Thompson, it's very possible that the Thunder advance and the Warriors' historic 73-9 season gets spoiled a series earlier.

Many experts assumed that Kevin Durant would re-sign with the Thunder, dismissing the rumors that he would form a super-team with Stephen Curry, Klay and Draymond Green as nonsense. However, Durant shocked the basketball world by signing a two-year deal with the Warriors. Was it the allure of the bigger market? Was it the lighter workload? Was it personal issues with Russell Westbrook? It'll be years before we know the full story of Kevin Durant's escape to the Bay but we know for sure that fans in the midwest feel betrayed by his departure.

7 Gilbert Arenas


Gilbert Arenas's departure from Golden State caused so much rancor, it eventually spawned its own rule, now colloquially known as "The Gilbert Arenas rule," which limits the salary teams can offer restricted free agents.

After winning the NBA's "Most Improved Player Award" in his sophomore season, Arenas left the Golden State Warriors by signing a six-year, $60 million contract with the Washington Wizards. The Warriors were finally looking like a young team on the rise but that was all undone by Arenas's move, forcing more years of NBA obscurity in the Bay Area before the Splash Bros. era. What's even more infuriating, Arenas allegedly made his decision between going to Washington, the LA Clippers or returning to Golden State by flipping a coin.

6 Vince Carter

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Unhappy with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and Raptors President Richard Peddie's decision to rebuild rather than be competitive, Vince Carter derailed the Raptors by practically giving up on the team and forcing one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history.

In 20 games with the Raptors in 2004, Carter posted a career-low 15 points per game and was often benched in the 4th quarter by new head coach Sam Mitchell. He has since admitted to not playing hard on a nightly basis in order to get moved and some NBA conspiracy theorists maintain that he faked injuries to get out of games early. Eventually the Raptors pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Carter to the Nets for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and a pair of first-round draft picks. Mourning never reported to Toronto and Carter would represent New Jersey at the All-Star game from 2005 to 2007, averaging over 20 points per game each season with the team.

5 Ray Allen


When Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett joined forces in Boston, the Celtics were instantly revitalized and won a title the first season this Big Three were together.

Boston's Big Three continued to make some noise in the East for a few more years before Ray Allen suddenly took a pay cut to join their rival Miami Heat. With Allen suddenly on the other side of the rivalry, Boston's hopes of competing against LeBron, Wade and Bosh were squashed. Knowing they couldn't compete for Eastern Conference dominance anymore, Pierce and Garnett were shipped out of Beantown and Danny Ainge began focusing on rebuilding.

Although he was past his prime, Allen contributed important minutes and hit a championship-winning corner three against the Spurs, which was definitely tough for Celtics fans to swallow.

4 Carmelo Anthony

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Carmelo Anthony didn't just betray the Denver Nuggets by forcing them to trade him to the Knicks, he arguably betrayed the Knicks by making them gouge the team to acquire him mid-season.

At the beginning of the 2010-2011 season, speculation began that Carmelo Anthony had requested a trade after declining to sign an extension with the Nuggets. The Nuggets would finally move Anthony on February 22, 2011, along with Chauncey Billups.

Without Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov, the Knicks' depth had been gutted. It makes perfect sense that Denver traded Carmelo because it's always better to get a few assets in return rather than watch a star walk away in free agency, but why New York wouldn't wait until the offseason to acquire Anthony via free agency is a betrayal to the future of the Knicks, as seen in their lack of success since acquiring the high-scoring forward.

3 LeBron James

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Is there anything worse than getting dumped? What about getting dumped on a live TV special?

When Lebron James made his Decision to take his talents to South Beach, arguably what made it such a betrayal was how public the announcement was. Cleveland appeared to be the frontrunner to retain the King's services, but the "hometown hero" had other plans.

In the days after the announcement, thousands of LeBron jerseys were burned in protest of his decision. And although James succeeded in ending the championship drought in Cleveland as he had been expected to since he was 18-years-old, Cavaliers fans won't soon forget the initial sting of seeing their favourite son turn his back on the franchise to chase championships with his friends.

2 Shaquille O'Neal

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

As soon as Shaquille O'Neal was drafted by the Orlando Magic first overall at the 1992 NBA Draft, he was a bonafide star. Not only was he an athletic freak of nature, combining size, strength and speed, his larger than life personality and marketing savvy quickly turned Shaq into a fan-favourite.

However, after an injury-riddled 1995-1996 season, O'Neal started to face some intense scrutiny. He was due for a new contract and the Orlando media questioned whether or not he was worth a record-breaking $115 million extension. To make matters worse, he began to believe the Magic front office was more enamoured with building their team around their other young superstar, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway.

After the Orlando Sentinel published the results of a poll where 91% of readers agreed Shaq was not worth the $115 million, Shaq chose to stick it to Magic fans by signing a seven-year, $121 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would win three NBA titles. Without Shaq, the Magic floundered.

1 Dwight Howard

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With a year left on his contract, Dwight Howard let it be known to everyone in Orlando that he would not be sticking around after two years of going back and forth on whether or not he would stay with the South Florida franchise. The Lakers swooped in to grab the All-Star center in one of the biggest trades in NBA history, a four-team deal that sent Andrew Bynum from the Lakers to the 76ers, Andre Iguodala from the 76ers to the Nuggets and all three other teams' draft assets and young players to the Magic, despite the fact that 26-year-old Howard was already dealing with back issues.

Not only did Howard betray the Magic by forcing them to trade their star player and begin yet another rebuild, he also managed to betray the Lakers, giving them a season where he constantly clashed with teammates, was out of shape and couldn't find his niche before he left for Houston. Not to mention, Bynum was a disaster for the 76ers and Iguodala never seemed to fit on the Nuggets. Unlike the other entries on this list, Dwight Howard's trade request didn't just alter the course of one franchise, it sent shockwaves through four NBA teams and fanbases.

Give TheSportster a Thumbs up!

Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?

Get Your Free Access Now!

More in NBA

Broken Promises: 15 NBA Players Who Betrayed Their Teams