When a franchise commits its future to a certain player, it gives him a rare clause in the NBA world, the no-trade clause. Not that these teams might ever want to trade these players (Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki), but even if they do, they actually need the player to agree.
Yes, even in the world of the NBA, where you can ship off players in the middle of the nights across the nation for about 3000 miles without having to ask for their consent, some players have some sort of immunity against that, and it’s usually the guys who’ll never be even mentioned in such a thing. Usually.
Kobe Bryant is the highest paid player in the NBA, making $27.8 million. Next season, he’ll be making $30.4 million, which means that even without the clause, he’s very difficult to trade because it usually means bringing over half an NBA team or two superstars for someone who can still score 30 points a night (without mentioning the collateral damage) but will also be turning 35 in seven months.
Bryant hasn’t been mentioned in a trade in quite some time. Back in 2007, he wasn’t so happy with the situation he was in, and there were actual talks of sending him to the Chicago Bulls, but the Bulls gave up on it because they weren’t willing to give up on Luol Deng (!!!). Last season, during another Lakers bad stretch and when the realization falls upon you that Bryant might be harming the Lakers by playing his alpha-dog routine quite too often, there were also noises of such a trade, but mostly from outside the organization.
Dirk Nowitzki is another player who has played his entire career for the same team, and is the all-time leader for the Dallas Mavericks in most statistical categories. There has never been any real discussion about Nowitzki in any kind of trade scenario. He was pretty much untouchable, but this season has changed some things in that conception.
Mark Cuban and Nowitzki have been trading some digs through the media about the choices made in building the team this season, which looks like it won’t be making the postseason for the first time after 12 consecutive appearances, including two NBA finals and winning the title in 2011. Dallas’ troubles along with the Lakers’ mess led to the thought of mixing it up between the teams and sending Nowitzki to LA for Gasol. Cuban has already come out to the media and said he isn’t trading Dirk, and he would have needed his consent in any case.
Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are a different story, especially Duncan. Even when out of a contract this summer, no one actually thought Duncan was going to sign with anyone else. Duncan cut his salary by half (making around $10 million a season until 2015) and there was never any doubt that his future will be with the team has has played for since 1997 and has been the major part in four NBA titles.
Kevin Garnett, unlike the previous three players, didn’t begin his career with the Boston Celtics, but his arrival has been so important to the transformation of this franchise – from a failing team, trying to find clues about its future from a glorified past, into NBA champions and consistently one of the best teams in the NBA, built around the defensive mentality and excellence of Garnett.
You can never say never, because in sports, nothing should surprise you, especially when there’s more business and money involved than anything else. However, it will be very surprising to see any of these four ever leaving their current teams to finish their careers somewhere else.