Defined as "the state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations," the topic has come up over the last few days on ArizonaSports.com on a variety of stories.
The most recent case involves the Phoenix Suns and their point guard, leader and face of the franchise Steve Nash.
In an interview with ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Nash talked about how he is not planning on asking for a trade.
"I just feel that I owe it to my teammates to stay committed to them. I feel that I owe it to the fans and the organization to fight," he said.
A few days later, on Arizona Sports 620's Doug and Wolf, Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby reiterated the organization's position on Nash, which can be summed up like this:
Steve Nash will be a Phoenix Sun for as long as he wants to be a Phoenix Sun.
The idea is as novel as it may be foolish, given that the team could be wasting Nash's final years as a quality player on a team that, quite frankly, will not win an NBA championship. The 37-year-old has shaken off a slow start to push is current averages to 12.1 points and 9.6 assists per game, while shooting 50 percent from the floor.
In other words, Steve Nash can still ball, meaning he would have to have some value to some other team that actually has championship aspirations. The Suns have no doubt taken calls about the guy - and likely Grant Hill, too - but have rebuffed the overtures each time.
While that could change if the Suns fall out of the playoff race in the near future or a team sends a crazy offer Phoenix's way (hello, Oklahoma City, interested in parting with Russell Westbrook?), the team has shown no inclination to trade away its veteran leaders, choosing to hang onto them for at least one more season, even at the risk of losing each as free agents this coming summer.
Babby's reasoning, he said, has as much to do with where the players help off the court as they do on it.
"I look and see what Steve and to the same extent Grant do for Markieff Morris every day, teaching him how to be a professional and how to be a pro," he said.
Babby continued to say you can't have a team full of only young players with no veteran leaders, and he's right. Do that and you are as likely to be the Sacramento Kings as you are the Oklahoma City Thunder. In fact, a team is probably more likely to wallow away in the lottery for a bit unless it lands a superstar like Kevin Durant or Derrick Rose in the draft.
But that's not the point, at least, not really. The truth is the Suns are showing an uncanny sense of loyalty to a player who has won a pair of MVP awards, guided the team to three Western Conference Finals appearances and really been a great ambassador for the team. They feel Nash has earned the right to play wherever he wants, and if Phoenix is that place then, by golly, they are happy to have him.
Is it the right course of action? Well, it didn't exactly work for the early-90s Celtics, who held onto Larry Bird and Kevin McHale for too long, only to suffer through years of pretty awful basketball after they left, and we won't know how the front office's loyalty is viewed around the league until the Summer of 2012, when free agents will have a chance to take Robert Sarver's money and play for the Suns.
But for now, all we know is what we already knew: Steve Nash is not your average NBA player, so he's not going to abandon the team, and the Suns have no interest in forsaking their star, even if it could potentially help them with the rebuilding process.
Loyalty is not a word used often in in the context of sports or, sadly, everyday life. However, we're seeing it play out right in front of us as the Suns continue their decline from contender to also-ran. So the question becomes: Is the wrong move palatable so long as it's being made for the right reasons?