And just like that, it was over. LeBron James gave the Cavaliers a call, he sent his agent to meet with the Sixers, but he went to Los Angeles. It’s clear his decision was as good as made before free agency began. He was always going to Hollywood. Once he had his championship in Cleveland, this became inevitable.
Is it about living the LA lifestyle, his family, and the enticement of Magic Johnson talking business with him? I have to believe yes. As a basketball move, it makes less sense to go to a 35 win team with little real talent. As a legacy move, the Lakers will never be “his”- even if he succeeds. In fact, LeBron will basically revert to Miami LeBron, where most fans other teams now want him to lose. He made this choice for personal reasons, which is fine, but really won’t help him much in the ever-annoying comparisons to a certain player with the initials MJ.
I think we all assume that Magic Johnson has some sort of plan to build this team- even if some of us suspect Magic will fail. Maybe they will get Kawhi Leonard today, maybe in a year- or maybe he’ll Paul George them. You would be forgiven though for looking at the Lakers roster around LeBron and laughing. If you’re thinking that none of their guys would start in Boston or Golden State, I’d have to agree. If you’re thinking New Orleans, Houston, Philadelphia, Utah, and Oklahoma City would all beat the current roster in five or six games, you’re probably right. If you’re wondering how they’re going to be any good if they trade their precious few raw talents that are young to get a second star- I’m with you there too.
The Lakers were a bad basketball team the last few years. Not a rebuilding one, but a bad one. LeBron could get through a weak Eastern Conference the past few years with a poor roster, but life is different in the West. Trying to take on Houston with Lonzo Ball on the court with him isn’t going to work. Beating Golden State with Kyle Kuzma as your next leading scorer isn’t happening either. Perhaps adding Lance Stephenson will help, but it’s not like he’s won a bunch either. Until they get another real star, this is a team that should be happy to make the second round out West.
Time is ticking away for LeBron too. He’s into his mid-30’s now. The time to win is this year, and the Lakers are far from equipped to help him do it. It is possible that LeBron believes he can take any pile of garbage deep in the playoffs. It’s also possible he just doesn’t care anymore. He knows his fans love him, and everyone else says Michael Jordan was better. It’s possible that winning a title in Cleveland is all he felt obligated to do. It’s also possible that he’s just looking at Golden State and throwing his hands in the air. If you can’t beat them, have fun and have nicer beaches than them.
Lakers fans, ESPN, and opportunistic Vegas bookies are going to love the next few months now, as hyperbolic nonsense about the Lakers contending gets discussed. The rest of us are going to love watching LeBron, Magic, and the Lakers come up short in the next four years.