Since the Cleveland Cavaliers are currently in a free fall, the possibility of LeBron James leaving town for the second time seems to be a realistic option.
At this point in his career, championship tallies are essentially what will define James’ legacy. Since the 33-year-old superstar is already near the top of a number of cumulative NBA records, he will likely put most of his focus on winning at least three more titles moving forward.
Since he has won three as a member of the Miami Heat and Cavs, he will need three more to match Michael Jordan, his main competition in the greatest-of-all-time conversation.
Will he stay in Cleveland or will he go? That is the question. If he stays put, it seems as though he will need to be surrounded by new, fresh talent. If he leaves, he will almost certainly seek out a situation in which he can immediately contend.
A couple of days ago, ESPN’s Chris Haynes floated out the possibility that James would be open to listening to the Golden State Warriors if they could open up enough cap room to give him a max offer this summer. The report took the social media world by storm and brought everyone back to Kevin Durant’s decision a couple of summers ago.
After Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder got eliminated by the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, the superstar famously jumped ship and signed with them just a couple months later. But, in the end, he accomplished his goal of winning his first NBA title. While the move was highly scrutinized, his personal goal was reached.
Therefore, the blueprint has already been proven to work. All James would have to do is sign on the dotted line and presumably join Durant, Steph Curry and either Draymond Green or Klay Thompson to make up what would absolutely be regarded as the best team in modern NBA history.
But, luckily for every other team and the NBA as a whole, that’s not going to happen.
“The first thing I did I started laughing, actually,” James told reporters about how he reacted to the initial report. “And then I thought about it I think it’s doing [a disservice], it’s nonsense, and it’s a non-story.”
But it wasn’t all fun and games for LeBron. He was deeply affected by the insinuation that he’d join the Warriors.
“I think it’s a discredit to what I’m trying to do here,” James said. “It’s a discredit to my teammates and the coaching staff here. My only focus right now is trying to figure out how we can become a championship-caliber team in these next few months. It’s been so many stories about me in the last few months, in the last few days, about where I’m going and where I’m at and what place I’m in. I’m here, I’m right here, I’m right now and this is my present and this is where I’m at. If you don’t hear something coming from my voice, then it’s not true.”
He continued, ”I don’t give a damn how close they are [as a source], I don’t care if it’s my kids, or my wife or whatever. If it’s not from me, it’s not true, so. Not even like upset right now about it. I think it’s just a discredit to my teammates because I’m the leader of these guys and for them to have to hear that stuff every single day about my free agency, I apologize to them. I will handle my summer situation when my summer gets here, and I will not handle it now.”
If James opts out of the final year of his contract with Cleveland in the summer, he will leave $35.7 million on the table. It’s widely presumed that he will decline that player option and enter free agency, but it’s not a certainty that he will leave the Cavs. If he does, it seems as though Golden State isn’t an option.
“I’ve always handled (free agency) at the right, appropriate time and that’s at the end of the season, when it’s time appropriate,” James noted. “And I’ve never let anything on the outside get in the way of what I’m trying to accomplish. So, I know the sound bite will be broken up and cut and however you guys want to cut it up, but the Golden State conversation is a non-story, all the other conversations is a non-story. My focus right now is on this team and trying to figure out how we can get back to a fourth NBA Finals and compete for a championship.”
James has gone to seven-straight NBA Finals. But, Cleveland will have two giant hurdles to overcome on top of their recent struggles in order to make it that far this season. All-Star forward Kevin Love is expected to miss up to two months with a broken bone in his hand and Isaiah Thomas has simply not resembled last season’s version of himself after returning from a hip injury.
Although LeBron’s legacy might take a hit if he leaves Cleveland for the second time, it won’t be destroyed like it would be if he followed in Durant’s footsteps and joined the Warriors.