In case you’ve been living under a rock lately, arguably the biggest news in NBA history broke out earlier this week: LeBron James is moving to the Los Angeles Lakers! This came as a huge shock to everyone, with even the most well-connected of sports journalists being taken by complete surprise.
Eight years ago James, then also with the Cleveland Cavaliers, made the bold decision to join Dwayne Wade’s Miami Heat project. At the time, James was vilified by Cleveland fans who went so far as to burn his jersey. Then NBA commissioner, David Stern, lambasted James calling the move “ill-conceived”. Even Michael Jordan mocked James saying he would never join a rival but try to beat them. James spent four seasons in a Heat team which also featured Chris Bosh. This all-conquering triumvirate of James, Wade, and Bosh reached four finals, winning two NBA championships during what was considered a successful stint. James certainly delivered on his promise to, “take my talents to South Beach“.
Eight years later, James leaves Cleveland once again, this time spending four seasons with his hometown team. In this time, the “super-team” phenomenon has caught on among both the minds of players and franchise owners. Golden State Warriors’ signing of Kevin Durant in recent times being the most noteworthy example. Over the course of time, the public has, by and large, come to accept players as the key cog which keeps the NBA machine spinning. Power has shifted from franchise owners to individual players.
This time around, James leaves a sinking ship having given his all to a team he carried to four consecutive NBA finals. Incredibly, James has featured in eight NBA finals in a row now, of which he has won three – two with Miami in four years, and one with Cleveland in four years. Thus, his thirst for success seems understandable given his poor return with Cleveland. Few would argue that it was him who carried Cleveland during his eleven cumulative years with the team. Yet he still kept his promise of delivering an NBA championship to Cleveland’s owner, Dan Gilbert, upon his return and this time leaves a hero.
The Lakers have reportedly signed James for four years. In fact, it is understood James even took a pay-cut to join Los Angeles despite having a better offer on the table from the Cavaliers. It is a well-known fact the Lakers are nowhere near the force they were a decade ago when were led by Kobe Bryant to three consecutive NBA finals, winning two. With many top-level players entering free agency this year, it might be the perfect time to re-build a Lakers super team.
The signing of Shaquille O’Neil by the Lakers in the late 90s changed the rules of the playing field for the better part of a half-decade. This time around, it seems the ramifications of James’ trade will redefine the NBA landscape and arguably re-shape it into a similar model to that of European Soccer’s richest clubs.
It took the legendary Laker, Magic Johnson, to convince James to join Los Angeles. Now it seems, it is James’ turn to deliver and correct his own finals record. This may be his final chance to settle once and for all who is the greatest of them all: Jordan, Bryant, or himself.
No matter which way you look at it, LeBron James is single-handedly taking the NBA into an era of unbridled player power, yet it is still the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy which remains the litmus test for determining the greatest players of all time.
Can James win three championships with the Lakers and beat Bryant’s overall record, or will he be gunning for four more championships and eclipse Jordan himself? Let’s wait and see.