Dwyane Wade Kobe Bryant.

All is fair in love and war, and NBA contracts

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There is not always a lot of room for sentiment in the NBA.

Fans might not like it, but sport is essentially about money. Success typically equates to cash and in the NBA, the longer a player is successful, the more money he breeds.

That's why stars have to play 10 years before they can maximise their earning potential. In a contract, anyway. Of course, endorsements and outside projects are readily available and historically, Los Angeles and New York have held an attraction in that regard.

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It would be quite possible for a superstar to remain where they are in this day and age and rake in more money than one might ever imagine. Mike Conley is a walking example of that notion; would any other franchise have paid the point guard $153 million over five years?

That's the richest contract in the history of the NBA, and yet, Conley hasn't even been selected to the All-Star game as he enters his tenth year in the league.

Could Memphis have justifiably attracted someone better for that kind of money? That's debatable. Was Conley's value inflated because of his long-standing association with the franchise and what he means to the fans? That's much more probable.

Memphis Grizzlies v Washington Wizards

All is fair in love and war, and NBA contracts. Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan just departed the league and will go down as two of the greatest ever players to man their respective positions.

What makes their legacies special is that they were tied to one franchise for the entire duration of their career. Kobe was born in Philadelphia and Duncan was born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands; he didn't even make the jump to the mainland until he attended Wake Forest University in his teens.

And yet, the fans developed an affinity with these players. Why? Certainly not because of any geological ties. Success mostly. Both men brought five NBA titles to their franchise and won Finals MVP awards along the way.

As the catalysts behind the success, a growing endearment between the player and the franchise becomes dangerous to break. In fact, Kobe and Duncan embody two totally different ways such a connection can manifest.

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers

The Black Mamba had the whole 2015-16 season as a retirement send-off. He also collected $25 million, which, after Joe Johnson had his Brooklyn Nets contract terminated, was the highest salary in the league.

The Lakers plummeted to a franchise-worst 17-65 and propped up the Western Conference.

Duncan, on the other hand, had a $5.6 million player option for this forthcoming season. The Spurs recorded their best ever regular season record with 67 wins and they made it to the Western Conference semi-finals before losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In fact, it could be said they underachieved.

Duncan's selflessness enabled the Spurs to remain competitive and keep their core of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and The Big Fundamental together, while adding LaMarcus Aldridge last summer and aiding the development of back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year, Kawhi Leonard.

San Antonio Spurs v Minnesota Timberwolves

It's painful to say, but Kobe's hunger for the spotlight and desire to maximise his profits - which he has every right to do - has only served to weigh the Lakers down.

The Purple and Gold should have known after Vino's Achilles injury that he wasn't the same player and thus, not worth the same money. But, loyalty and nostalgia got the better of them.

Although Dirk Nowitzki has now signed a $40 million two-year deal in light of the new, even more lucrative climate of the NBA, he undersold his value for years so that the Mavericks could piece a decent team around him. He made just over $8 million a year the three years prior.

Dallas Mavericks v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One

So, now Dwyane Wade represents both sides. He has left the team he spent 13 glorious years with in the Miami Heat, and he has returned to his actual home, Chicago.

Was it the right time for the Heat to sever ties with the 34-year-old Wade? Is the Windy City a more lucrative and prosperous environment for Wade?

If Kobe and Duncan have taught us anything, a veteran's decisions will have a direct impact on not just a franchise's current fortunes, but for many years to come after.

San Antonio Spurs
Southwest Division
Western Conference
Tim Duncan
LA Lakers
Pacific Division
Miami Heat
Southeast Division
Eastern Conference
Kobe Bryant
Dwyane Wade
Chicago Bulls
Central Division

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