5 Most Controversial Free Agent Signings
Free agency may be the most exciting two words in sports. The fact that a player can join a new team once they aren't under contract can change both their future and the futures of the teams impacted by the move. But not all free agent decisions are met with positive feelings, as there have been plenty of free agent signings that have resulted in controversy and scorn from fans, teams and anyone else with an interest in sports. These five signings, in particular, were lightning rods for controversy at the time they were completed.
5. Alex Rodriguez Makes History
In 2000, the Seattle Mariners were one of Major League Baseball's up and coming teams. They had talent like Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez and an ace in Randy Johnson to hold them down in the rotation. What they did not have, however, was hundreds of millions of dollars to keep all of that talent around.
Rodriguez was especially controversial in his departure from the team when he took the largest contract in the history of American professional sports to move to the Texas Rangers. The deal paid him over $250 million, which he continued to make when he was traded to the New York Yankees not long after the signing took place.
4. DeAndre Jordan Remains A Clipper
There wasn't a more surreal moment in the history of free agency in sports than the DeAndre Jordan saga with the Los Angeles Clippers. In 2015, all signs pointed to Jordan joining the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent after some successful years in LA. But once word of that started to spread, the Clippers put on a full court press to keep Jordan. And by that, we mean that they physically went to his home in an attempt to change his mind.
Clippers players Blake Griffin and Chris Paul showed up, along with Doc Rivers, who all pitched Jordan on staying in Los Angeles and keeping the Lob City Clippers intact. Griffin posted tweets from inside the house, the Clippers managed to keep Jordan around, and the team got their man. While the Clippers didn't win any titles during that era of the franchise, they did make the most daring free agent heist in league history.
3. Brett Favre Joins The Vikings
There aren't many rivalries in sports that are better than the one between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. Playing their games in cold weather cities in the same division, the teams usually put on great displays of toughness against one another with playoff spots on the line. And one of the players who usually put the Packers on the right side of that rivalry was Brett Favre. But when Favre retired from the NFL, unretired, and joined the Vikings, it sent shockwaves throughout the league.
Not only had Favre left the Packers to join one of their main rivals, he did so in some of the most dubious circumstances ever, retiring from the league and coming back to try and defeat them. Unfortunately for Favre, his plan to come back and run the league with the Vikings fell just a bit short. In fact, it was Favre who derailed his quest for a championship when he threw a game-killing interception that allowed the Saints to defeat him in the NFC Championship Game. The Saints went on to win the Super Bowl, while Favre went back into retirement.
2. Durant Joins The Warriors
One of the budding rivalries in the NBA in 2016 was the one developing between the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder. Golden State was starting to reach a level that let them compete for championships, while the Thunder had two of the best players in the game in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to combat them. And when the Warriors came back from a 3-1 deficit to take the Western Conference title away from the Thunder, fans couldn't wait to see the teams clash again the following season.
However, Durant had other ideas. His contract was up after that season, and Durant decided that he would rather play out the next stage of his career outside of OKC. In fact, he chose to spend it in the Golden State by joining the Warriors team that his team had failed to beat the season prior. It was seen as a cowardly move by Durant, who promptly went onto win multiple championships and multiple Finals MVP awards.
1. "The Decision"
LeBron James was the ideal sports story when he came up in the NBA. He was a kid from Ohio who got drafted to play for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. And he elevated the Cavaliers to levels they hadn't seen in ages, getting them to the NBA Finals virtually all by himself. But James wanted to make a change, and he announced where he would be going in free agency in 2010 in one of the most controversial ways possible: a nationally televised special.
It was that special, named The Decision, where James announced that he would be "taking his talents to South Beach, to join the Miami Heat". It wasn't the fact that he joined a new team that was controversial, it was his taking to television to do it that drew ire from fans. Even though the special raised money for a charity that James had worked closely with at the time, fans were furious to see what they thought was an egotistical display from the man nicknamed King James.
James went onto win multiple championships in Miami, but made everything right with Cleveland when he won them a ring in 2016. When he left the Cavaliers in free agency in 2018, he did so without another televised special.