NBA, Utah Jazz

The encroaching reality of NBA mega-deals and climate chaos

Impending climate chaos is going to dictate a new reality, defined by events we’ve never seen before. Just like the trend of NBA mega-trades.

“The trend is there and it is real.” So said James Kossin, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher, regarding satellite data that shows warming ocean temperatures have helped increase the number of major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) by 8 percent per decade since the 1980s. It’s hard to use the word “natural” when describing the apocalypse and not feel uneasy, but the truth is it’s inevitable that as climate chaos accelerates, we will see things no humans ever have. Generational floods. Heat waves. Hurricanes. When do we know we’re in the new normal? Who will we be when we get there?

The mega-deal trend in the NBA feels real, with three XXL trades in the past five months. In February, Brooklyn sent James Harden to Philadelphia, the second Harden-centric mega-deal in a little over a year. On draft night Charlotte, Detroit and New York made a deal involving six draft picks, Jalen Duren’s draft rights and the right to buy out the only player in the trade yet to play in the NBA, Kemba Walker. Two weeks later, Minnesota sent five players, four first-round picks and a pick swap in 2026 to Utah for Rudy Gobert. The trend shows no sign of slowing.

Brooklyn expects a historic haul from any team trying to trade for Kevin Durant. Utah declared themselves ready and willing to discuss a Donovan Mitchell deal — gotta figure they want something in the neighborhood of what the Timberwolves gave them for Gobert. And while New Orleans did get Zion Williamson’s signature on a five-year extension, all that means is Zion is gonna make an awful lot of money over the next half-decade. As Durant’s situation reminds us, the league’s power players are no more concerned about asking for a trade with years left on their contract than the owners have been forever trading players with years left on their contract.

Climate chaos and NBA trades are going to show you things you’ve never seen before

Climate chaos is excess as the logical endgame of excess. We feed into it and it intensifies. All that’s changed is whose hands are on the wheel: human hands drove us off the cliff; what comes next is up to Mother Nature. NBA mega-deals are also a consequence of excess: the drive for ease over color, efficiency as the holy grail. We usually think of efficiency impacting the game on the court: corner 3s, shots in the paint, 2-for-1 or now 3-for-2 possessions at the end of quarters, etc. The game’s changed. Steph Curry’s shooting, LeBron James’ everything, unicorns, cheat codes, whatever Chet Holmgren is — as the players continually evolve to do what was once impossible, doesn’t it stand to reason front offices would, too?

How often have you heard about a coach being fired because “you can’t fire all the players”? But just like pulling up from 40 feet used to be unheard of and now it’s increasingly common, general managers are pushing against orthodoxy too. You can’t trade all the players, but being on either end of a mega-deal gets you about as close as possible.

Utah’s been a good regular-season team for six years, but half of those seasons they were knocked out in the second round and the other half they were knocked out in the first. They can’t trade everybody. But should they follow the Gobert trade with a similar return for Mitchell, they’ll have cleared $221 million in future financial obligations to two players (Gobert and Mitchell both hold player options for the last year of their deals totaling $85 million).

They’ll also have added a dozen first-round picks and swaps and about a half-dozen intriguing youngsters. There’s a very real chance the Jazz will enter this season with their biggest contributing holdover being Rudy Gay. They may not have traded their entire team, but going from a respected contender led by two All-Stars to Rudy Gay’s band of merry gentlemen is about as big a turnaround as any franchise can swing from one year to the next.

In a world where money rules everything, everything is commodified. Even the apocalypse. Scientists warn we need drastic action taken yesterday and the billionaire-owned media says some global oil giant pledges to cut their emissions a certain amount by 2050. Yet despite the fact that the vast majority of us are more likely to become climate refugees than rich, we as a species can’t come together for something as fundamental as our survival.

In the NBA money rules everything, everything is commodified. Especially hope. See how good Memphis is? New Orleans could take a Grizzlies-level leap this year. Indiana is exciting and new when they looked to be running out of steam. New York could go from a backcourt of Alec Burks and Evan Fournier to Donovan Mitchell and Jalen Brunson. Brooklyn went from meh to the favorites in a single day three years ago. All these deals and the lives they uproot — players who don’t want to be traded, their families, support staff who work for them — are justified by fans wanting a reason to hope for better days.

Given how few teams even contend for titles, much less win any, I wonder if a silent majority of NBA fans watch for reasons that aren’t rings-or-bust. The vast majority of us are more likely to support teams who don’t win than teams who do. We, as a fanbase, have come together for something even more fundamental than victory. Fandom is about stories. Stories we tell ourselves, stories we bond over with others.

Mega-trades are the giant pencil and eraser in Looney Tunes cartoons. They allow us to erase entire processes and start over from scratch. Telling ourselves new stories is self-care. As climate chaos intensifies, our control over the world around us slips from non-existent to comitragically so. If you’d rather think about how many unprotected first-round picks plus swaps the next star on the move will take to acquire, who could blame you?

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