Make no mistake, the Los Angeles Lakers will NOT be in position to compete for the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2018-19. Basketball fans know it. Experts and analysts know it. All of the guys that play in The Association know it (including his now-current teammates). But most importantly, LeBron James himself, KNOWS IT. And just like that, the summer so far has played out smoother than any one that preceded it. It must be a warm, fuzzy feeling for The King to have things go exactly according to his master plan, and not receive the world’s third degree in return.
James’ transition to Hollywood features all pros and practically zero cons.
Act I. The Announcement
Clearly, LeBron learned a great deal from the first two installments of The Decision Trilogy. This time around, there was no elaborate National Television broadcast, no carefully constructed homecoming article in Sports Illustrated, no spectacle, no hoopla, no trolling of the city and people of Cleveland and really, no opportunity for jersey burning or true public embarrassment. Not this time. All that existed before the delivery of The Decision 3.0 was the Twitter-hungry NBA army of millions that were not so patiently waiting for any Woj-given sign on The King’s next move.
Then came the Woj-given sign:
LeBron James has agreed to 4-year, $154M deal with Lakers, Klutch Sports says.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 2, 2018
And just like that, the wait — which wasn’t really a wait at all — was over. Because if there’s one rule among the NBA media brethren, it’s that when Adrian Wojnarowski tweets, it’s gospel.
The contract itself met the expectations. 4 years, $154 million. Still probably a discount for the best player in the universe.
Act II: Life > Basketball
While not shocking, the single most intriguing element to LeBron’s move is that at this point in his career, after 15 grueling seasons in which he’s proved to be an indestructible cyborg, he simply just chose LIFE over BASKETBALL. And more specifically, over winning. At least for this first season, where he’s clearly accepting of inheriting a very young roster, focusing on development, rather than chasing an immediate title.
This move was obsessively calculated and perfectly executed. LeBron knows better than anyone that this 2018-19 season for the Los Angeles Lakers is a throwaway season. His acceptance was apparent when he decided to join the Western Conference without another superstar to tag team with. If the guy can recite the Toronto Raptors bench mob without error, do we think that he isn’t aware of what’s in place on the Lakers roster prior to splashing the ink? Of course not.
Again, it’s perfect. With a roster full of inexperience, youth and untapped upside, there are no expectations on him, or the team this year, especially in the West. Could they make the playoffs? Sure, and that would be a fun story. But to make any kind of noise in the playoffs with the Warriors representing the “final boss” character, the chances are none to none. LeBron clearly accepts this season as a transition year for himself and the team.
But the decision makes sense for HIM and his family. With the majority of his legacy already written, there’s really no negative impact for sacrificing a single NBA season to establish his young family in what’s their biggest and likely their final major transition of their lives. LeBron’s life and career have always been (slowly) inching toward the bright lights of Hollywood. The signs have just been adding up and have become more publicized over time. It’s no secret that he owns two homes in California, his kids are enrolled in school there and he’s become increasingly involved in (and intrigued by) the commercial, television and movie scene. He’s arguably the most recognized athlete in the world and well, the lifestyle fits.
- Sacrificing winning (for at least one season) to establish his life in LA
- Kids in school
- The rest of his life / happiness
Chapter III: The Throwaway Season
- Guys on one-year contracts
- Developing young guys (seeing what he has)
- Seeing what Walton can do
Chapter IV: 2019
- Kawhi Leonard
- Cap space (free agents list?)
- Recruitment (GM LeBron)
- The Market
Chapter V: The Legacy
- Jordan? Records?
- One of the Lakers greats
- Championship back to LA?
- Beat the Warriors
- Did what’s best for family