I Don’t Blame LeBron for Joining the Lakers, But How Will NBA History Remember Him?

LeBron James is the latest superstar athlete to pack up and head for Hollywood to play for the Lakers. After years of hating on LeBron I have to admit, I don’t really blame him for this one. Three out of the last four years the Cavs just did not have enough firepower to beat the all-world Golden State Warriors. Part of that is his own fault for forcing the team to be built in his image, long term planning be damned, but all that aside the writing was on the wall. The Cavs were not getting any better so he could play out his days in Cleveland due to a sense of guilt for how he left his hometown high and dry for Miami all those years ago. Or he could go put a bow on his career and build a media empire while playing for the Showtime Lakers and learn from the Magic 8-ball himself.

After winning a title for those lovable losers in Cleveland, LeBron was playing with house money and he knew it. The fans couldn’t possibly turn on him again, especially after getting the Cavs to the finals the last 4 years in a row. So unless the Cavs somehow landed Kawhi or Paul George, which was never going to happen, LeBron had one foot out the door as soon as that championship parade was over.

Hey, I totally get the desire to just live somewhere that you like. I’m from Boston, born and bred, but I want to blow my brains out from the months of November to March. If it wasn’t for the Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics to get me through the miserable nuclear winters in this city I would have packed my bags and moved years ago.

So for a guy in his 30s with 3 kids who’s already accomplished just about everything in the league, I totally get wanting to go take a new job in a city thats 70 degrees every day of the year. Plus you know LeBron wants to make more movies, whether its the oft rumored Space Jam 2 or if its for more roles like his cameo in Trainwreck where I found myself liking LeBron more than I care to admit.

For LeBron he gets the benefits of both worlds, he’s now able to really start building the media empire he clearly wants to build and he gets to play for the Los Angeles Lakers who *could* be challenging for a championship as early as next year because they fall ass backwards into top free agents all the time. This probably isn’t exactly what Kobe had in mind when he told LeBron to just “figure it out” in order to win titles.

This move doesn’t seem like ring chasing though. The Lakers are fine, but barring some monster moves they aren’t true title contenders. Did the Warriors beat the will to win out of LeBron? Has he come to realize he probably isn’t going to be able to top Michael Jordan’s six rings without a hurricane wiping out the Bay Area? Maybe thats why, as Chris Mannix put it, winning seems to now be taking a back seat.

“Is James, 33, really willing to punt on the upcoming season in the hopes of success in the next one? Seems like it. L.A. is a fantastic business decision and clearly one with which his family was comfortable. But basketball? Finding his way to Houston, a 65-win team that had the Warriors on the ropes last season, would have been a basketball decision. The Sixers, a team with a pair of elite young franchise players already on board, would have been a basketball decision.

Boston, Denver, Golden State … those would have been basketball decisions.

The Lakers are about something else.”

If nothing else though, this team is going to be entertaining as fuck. For his first move as the new GM of the Lakers, LeBron signed Lance Stephenson.

Yup that guy.

For his second move he signed the wildly entertaining Javale McGee.

And then of course to top it all off, don’t forget the first family of LA, the patriarch of which is still very much embedded in this team.

I am legitimately excited for LaVar to complain on an episode of Ball in the Family (which shockingly ain’t half bad) that LeBron isn’t getting his son the ball enough. Skip Bayless literally may croak at his desk.

The only real knock on this whole situation though is where does it ultimately leave LeBron’s legacy? Does he get remembered as the guy who brought a championship to long suffering Cleveland? The guy who smoked his hometown with The Decision and built the NBA’s first real Super Team? Or is he remembered as a nomad just jumping around from team to team picking out the situation that suited him best at the time?

To be honest, I think when we look back in 20 years its probably going to be mostly the last one, but not in a negative way. He’ll be looked at as a guy ahead of his time because sure LeBron was the first one to orchestrate the construction of his own Super Team, but we’ve seen it time and time again in the years since. James Harden and CP3 working their way to the Rockets to play together. Kevin Durant heading for greener pastures to chase rings with the Warriors. LeBron was the first one to do it.

He may ultimately be revered as the guy that taught his peers the players have the power, not the owners. If you’re good enough you can leverage your talent to shape a team the way you see fit. LeBron did this with his 1+1 contracts, basically keeping his team on its toes for years (for better or worse) so they couldn’t just take a year off, not spend enough, or punt on a free agent because LeBron could just threaten to opt out and leave. He brought the power back to the players.

For all his dominance, his “must watchability,” his highs, his lows, LeBron will be an NBA legend when its all said and done, but when he does get that Hall of Fame nod……what jersey will he wear? Will it even matter by then?

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