LeBron James Lakers rumors dominated the NBA for much of the last season. Conventional wisdom was that he would head to Los Angeles as part of a package to form a new super team.
L.A. probably tried to do just that. Almost everyone expected Paul George to enter free agency this year. He instead opted to sign a long-term deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team that traded for him from the Indiana Pacers last off-season.
Kawhi Leonard remains on the trading block, though the Spurs seem loath to give up their superstar for anything less than a huge haul. It seems like he wants to be a Laker, but that may not happen until he hits free agency, and who knows what can happen during the season before then.
That leaves LeBron James with a ragtag assemblage of young potential stars—Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma—and largely enigmatic veterans like Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, and Lance Stephenson.
It makes it clear that this LeBron James Lakers pick was not all about winning right now.
There were definitely better situations he could have sought out for that, like Philadelphia. Even with another superstar, it is a major question whether the team could compete with the Golden State Warriors as current;y constituted.
James’ long-time friend and agent Rich Paul couldn’t give an exact reason why he went with L.A. this time around, but we got the closest thing to an explanation we may ever get. From Sports Illustrated‘s Lee Jenkins, who spoke to Paul about the significance of LeBron’s meetings with Lakers president Magic Johnson:
“It was like watching two fish in a fish tank that speak a language the rest of the world can’t understand,” says Paul. “Magic understands what it’s like to be LeBron. He was a 6’9″ point guard. He was an MVP. But he was also Tragic Johnson.” His stumbles in the 1984 Finals against Boston were every bit as severe as James’s in 2011 against Dallas.
“Paul is reluctant to overstate the significance of the sit-down because no single exchange delivered James to Los Angeles. Even pinpointing a primary motive behind James’s third free-agent decision is difficult. “In 2010, when he went to Miami, it was about championships,” Paul continues. “In 2014, when he went back to Cleveland, it was about delivering on a promise. In 2018, it was just about doing what he wants to do.”
The Warriors are an absolute juggernaut. There was no team that LeBron could join that would be anywhere near favored against them, except for maybe the Houston Rockets, but a sign-and-trade to that team would’ve been very tricky. With that being the case, LeBron just making the choice of whichever situation makes him most comfortable, and “doing what he wants to do” makes as much sense as anything else.