LeBron James has carried the entire Cleveland Cavaliers team throughout the 2017-18 season and 2018 postseason. Take James away from Cleveland and they become a lottery team. Many feel James is fed up with his teammates’ poor play—hence his frustration with J.R. Smith after the boneheaded play that may have cost Cleveland Game 1 of the NBA Finals—and wants out of Cleveland.
Although that may be true and the sweepstakes to sign the 33-year-old superstar have been taken up a notch since Cleveland’s complicated road to the 2018 NBA Finals began, there are plenty of reasons to stay.
There are several suitors for James if he chooses to opt-out of his $35.6 million player’s option on his contract for next season. Rumors over the previous months show the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Houston Rockets have their sights on James and will do anything in their power to sign him if he becomes a free-agent. Realistically, James wouldn’t fit in Philadelphia or Houston where he would have to share the scoring load with such players like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and James Harden and Chris Paul. You can’t rule out Los Angeles, but team representatives say Paul George is likely who they’ll go after, but if James is interested they’d see what they can do.
First off, if he should abandon Cleveland, again, it is understandable. Cleveland added a few new pieces around James at the beginning of 2017-18 with the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder, and Derrick Rose with hopes they would help the team finish better than their 51-31 record in 2016-17. It all changed at the 2018 Trade Deadline. Cleveland made a couple of trades including sending Thomas, Channing Frye, and a 2018 first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Other players sent away in a three-team trade deal were Iman Shumpert, Crowder, and Rose with Rodney Hood and George Hill in return. Though the acquisitions looked great on paper, down the line and even though Cleveland reached the 2018 NBA Finals, it did not work out.
Every single player acquired was either playing a lesser role during the season for Cleveland than they did for their previous team or could not handle playing alongside the league’s best player in LeBron James. Since the Cavaliers’ moves at the deadline, it seems more and more like James has carried the entire team on his shoulders. Other than fellow All-Star forward Kevin Love, nobody has stepped up and had game-changing performances to help James and his team win games in the regular season or postseason.
Rodney Hood, a 16.8 points per game scorer in 39 games for Utah before being traded to Cleveland has seen his role diminish greatly. Blame head coach Tryonn Lue or blame the way Hood has handled his lower minutes. While up more than 30 points during the fourth quarter in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Toronto, Hood refused to play out of frustration in which would have been his first appearance in the game.
Hood, as well as JR Smith—whose Game 1 blunder cost Cleveland the win—recently admitted playing alongside LeBron James has its pros and cons and brings “lots of pressure” to play well. Pressure or no pressure, Cleveland is paying a few players over $10 million a year and they are not holding their own and can be a reason James would be on the move.
If LeBron James were to sign elsewhere in free-agency, it would be strictly to win. Although he is still putting up numbers as if he’s still in his prime, James turns 34-years-old in December 2018 and the 2018-19 season will be his sixteenth as a pro. How much longer can James carry a Cleveland Cavaliers team?
Loyalty wasn’t James’ main concern when he abandoned ship to win back-to-back championships in Miami alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in 2012 and 2013. But this time around, loyalty may be the deciding factor. James has repaid the debt he owed the city of Cleveland since he returned home—his actions are a distant memory and a championship trophy is enough to win back the city and its fans. James won a championship for the team that drafted him and did it for a city that hadn’t won a title in any major sport in 52 years.
LeBron James’ legacy, family, and the Cleveland community play a major role in his decision.
James admitted to Cleveland.com that the most important component in determining whether he stays in Cleveland or leaves will be his family.
”My family. That’s all that matters,” James told Cleveland.com. “I want to continue to win at the highest level, because I know I can still do it as an individual, and then my family. My family is what’s most important to me, more than anything.”
James and his wife Savannah, who are both from Akron, are raising three children in their northeast Ohio mansion. James has three children under 14-years-old and the three-time NBA championship wants to continue raising them in Ohio. James Sr. remains a vocal, passionate supporter of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, and his son LeBron Jr. could go there, though the family will consider other schooling options.
LeBron James has also done an incredible amount of philanthropy work with the Akron and Cleveland, Ohio community. Despite the backlash he received from announcing he would sign with the Miami Heat on ESPN’s “The Decision” in 2010, James donated $2.5 million of the proceeds from the television special to the Boys and Girls Club of America. The club helps give all children equal opportunities and provides after-school mentoring and activities and has 59 locations across America. James also began the After-School All-Stars where he has raised over $40 million and recently sent 800 Akron students to the University of Akron at his own expense. James never forgets where he came from and never shy’s away from giving money to those in need.
Lastly, if James were to abandon Cleveland for the second time, his legacy and fan base would take a hit. Sure, James’ decision is his own and nobody should judge a man’s decision if it involves his business and family status, but that would only happen in a perfect world. Everyone has their opinion and just like after his decision to leave Cleveland in 2010, James will have “haters” and he will hear the complaints that he had to jump around the league to win.
James’ teams have gone to eight consecutive Finals and nine overall. James’ teams are 3-and-5 in those series. James led the Cavaliers to the Finals in 2007 and from 2015-17, and of course, won the franchise’s only title in 2016.
LeBron James is the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s the franchise’s greatest player and is beloved in the state of Ohio.
Thinking he wouldn’t sign elsewhere because of the Cavaliers’ current situation isn’t off the plate, but lots of things on and off the court will affect his choice. Cleveland has the No. 8 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft where they can select a valuable young prospect. Along with the pick, a few free-agent signings and decisions can make the Cavaliers even more enticing for James.
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