LeBron leaving feels a little different this time
In 2010 there was anger.
In 2014 there was shock, then jubilation.
Then came Sunday.
There are presidential elections. There are the Olympics.
And there is LeBron James free agency.
Every four years. No term limits, apparently.
The greatest player of his era has left the Cleveland Cavaliers again. This time, for the Los Angeles Lakers.
As a Cavaliers fan dating back to when the colors were burnt orange and blue (it was the second of what has becoming a seemingly endless string of changing color schemes), this hurts.
But I’m not angry this time.
Disappointed, sure. But after LeBron returned to Cleveland in 2014 and led the team to four consecutive Eastern Conference titles — and the ever elusive world title in 2016 — I remain grateful for what LeBron has done for Cleveland fans everywhere.
That appreciation will never go away.
So now, I’ll watch the remainder of LeBron’s career from a somewhat objective perspective. I won’t root against him, but I can’t cheer for the Lakers.
Made a promise years ago to my late grandmother to never cheer for a California team (It’s just how my family is).
But I’m more interested in how much longer LeBron can go.
Not how much longer he can play, but how much longer he can be the best player in the game.
LeBron is 33. He will be 34 during his first playoff run with the Lakers — the same age Michael Jordan was when he retired from the Chicago Bulls after winning his final championship in 1998.
Jordan eventually did return to the NBA, but that was years later, with the Wizards. He was still a good player, but no longer the force he once was.
My feeling was he left in ’98 because he knew he could no longer be the best.
The time will eventually come, perhaps sooner than most realize, when James won’t be able to do what he’s done the last 15 years.
And the mileage on him — nine times he’s played well into June — is unbelievable. Jordan wasn’t playing in the NBA when he was 18.
Maybe that’s why this move to Hollywood isn’t so shocking. LeBron has the opportunity to be more than a basketball star. In many ways, he already is.
Maybe he wants to be a movie star. Maybe he wants to be a mogul.
There’s no better place for that than Hollywood.
I’m not convinced this was a basketball-first decision. He’s not joining a superteam, at least not at first. There’s no Chris Paul on the Lakers. There’s no Paul George. Maybe the Lakers can pry Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs. But even if they do, its hard to imagine that being enough to dethrone Golden State.
I think this move was about the future. One that extends beyond the final time he takes the court.
Of course, I’ve learned never to doubt LeBron.
Maybe he wins a title next year. Maybe he plays into his late 30s at this level.
LeBron’s career may be long from over.
The Cavs on the other hand?
Oh, they’ll be around. They’re renovating their arena and owner Dan Gilbert isn’t afraid to spend money.
But I have trouble believing the Cavaliers will ever seriously challenge for an NBA title again.
And that’s sad.
But then, at least they got one.
Thank you, LeBron.