Kawhi Leonard's Move To Toronto Echoes Pattern In Sports

By: Jon Fisher

Thursday, July 19, 2018

On July 1, the Toronto Maple Leafs agreed to a 7-year deal with one of the NHL's most-enigmatic playmakers of this generation, John Tavares. First reported by Barnburner, the deal spans seven years and includes $77-million. The former-New York Islanders forward was the biggest signing of the NHL's free agency frenzy. 

On July 10th, the Los Angeles Lakers finalized the biggest NBA free agency signing since the Miami Heat in 2010. Coincidentally, it was for the same player. The Heat signed Lebron James and formed the second 'Big Three' in the NBA at that time. Lakers' owner Magic Johnson completed his biggest acquisition, and perhaps the Lakers' biggest signing in franchise history. 

On July 18th, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired shortstop Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles for five prospects. Machado's having a career year in 2018 and made yet another All-Star game. 

On July 18th, the San Antonio Spurs announced the largest trade in 2018 in the NBA. The Toronto Raptors agreed to send DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard. Other pieces of the deal were included, but DeRozan and Leonard were the focal points of the agreement. 

Even though the aforementioned sports are all different, one pattern exists that outline a troublesome pattern in professional athletics. The bigger, and more popular cities, are winning. 

It sounds like an adolescent term when considering why the New York Yankees are always signing the best free agents and winning every championship. Nothing is that absolute, which is why the Milwaukee Brewers were one of the reported front-runners for the Machado sweep steaks. Milwaukee isn't a large market for sports.

Yet, the Dodgers landed one of the best shortstops in the past five years. The Lakers landed the best player in the NBA. Toronto doesn't have the 'allure and grandeur' that New York or Chicago has, but the Maple Leafs are considered in the top-5 most-valuable franchises in the NHL. 

It's rare if a star athlete wants to travel to Milwaukee, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Utah, Kansas City, or St. Louis, just to name a few. That's why Chris Haynes of ESPN reported Leonard had no desire to play for the Toronto Raptors, and he expressed interest to become a Laker. 

Star athletes are playing for the big cities and the trend is becoming even more accurate as salary caps are relaxed, if a salary cap exists at all. Baseball's dilemma will persist until enough big teams don't want higher payrolls. The NBA's higher ratings and star prowess wont' change the way things are for a while.

When will this pattern become defunct? 

[Image via AP]

Contact at jonf@barnburner.ca