With potentially just one game remaining in the 2017-18 NBA season the rumor mill and never-ending news cycle that is LeBron James once again has taken center stage. Earlier today on his popular morning show “First Take”, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith pronounced that LeBron has expressed interest in six teams, including the Cavaliers, that he may or may not be providing his services to next season. Among those listed, alongside of a flurry of rumors from Adrian Wojranowski regarding LeBron’s contact with Paul George, contains a team that may surprise many. It’s not the run and gun offense of the ice cold (at least in the second half) Houston Rockets, bounced from the Western Conference Finals after one of the worst shooting performances I have ever seen – nor is it the recently exhumed Philadelphia 76ers, facing a variety of issues within their own management offices at the moment and seemingly having little time to speculate on their chances of landing James come July 1st. It’s a team that’s been there, done that, and is on the precipice of joining an exclusive group, those who have won three championships in four years.
That’s right – Golden State Warriors, you’re our lucky winners in this week’s “LeBron Lottery”.
Now before you go ahead and throw your laptop across the room, there’s a few things that make a scenario in which James joins the Warriors extremely unlikely. As much as we would like them to be, the NBA’s free agency “sliders” are not all the way up at 100 just yet, with a variety of preventative barriers still standing in the way of James ending up in Silicon Valley. There’s issues with current players, contract negotiations and legacy discussions that must be had first – all of which make me question whether or not Stephen A. is staying “off the weed” himself these days. Here’s three main justifications for why this will not (and should not) happen in July.
- LeBron has openly stated that he wants a max-contract this off-season.
Wow! Having to pay FOUR future Hall of Famers must be tricky eh? All joking aside, LeBron has stated on multiple occasions that he will settle for nothing less than the maximum amount of money he can receive from his suitors, a wrinkle that would make the Warriors landing him nearly impossible. One of their own superstars in Kevin Durant has the ability to “opt out” of his current deal in July, and forwards Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will also need to be resigned within the next two seasons (Thompson in 2019, Green in 2020). By that time, the landscape of the league may be completely different – but on their current pace it seems as though they have cracked the code on how to serve as a cheat code towards everyone else. The only way they would be able to add LeBron would need to involve some form of sign and trade with Thompson or Green, both of whom provide unparalled contributions to the fabric of the Warriors system and would be challenging to part ways with as both an organization and a fanbase in Oakland. A much more realistic West Coast team that James would be able to join out of a desire for a huge contract? The Los Angeles Lakers. With the ability to hand out TWO maximum contract sheets, presumably to LeBron and a buddy of his choice (Chris Paul, Paul George, Demarcus Cousins) as well as a huge portion of his business operations located in the area, it would make much more financial sense for LeBron to travel a bit further south. It would take a monetary miracle, and I just can’t see the Warriors willing to part ways with what they currently have in order to gain a single player (even though he is the greatest of all time).
2. LeBron and Steph, truthfully, do not seem to get along.
If you didn’t watch the Finals the other night, there was one pont during the game in which LeBron pushed Warriors star point guard and three-point assassin Steph Curry rather forcefully, causing a reaction out of Klay Thompson and drawing some chatter back from Curry, who appeared eager to stand up for himself in front of The King. Despite being professional athletes and making millions of dollars per year to simply play basketball, a court is the same as any business atmosphere that you can think of. Rival “corporations” (or teams) don’t have to nor shouldn’t have to get along with each other and may even sometimes settle for being the “bad guy” in the public eye rather than look soft compared to everyone else. LeBron broke into the league in 2003 with a crop of fresh, young talent including Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul, a friendship grouping that has laughably been called “the Banana Boat” by multiple sports media outlets and has driven wild amounts of speculation over the years about the creation of the super team. Before his move to Miami, LeBron had been extremely close with both Wade and Chris Bosh and obviously made the collective decision to find a way to join forces. There seemingly exists no such love between James and Curry, who have been paired on opposite sides of the media spectrum before and have gotten under each other’s skin in the past. I mean come on, can you really expect LeBron to like a guy who took away two of his MVP trophies and stole some of the luster from the prime years of his professional career. Like it or not, these guys are human- and sometimes people just don’t seem to get along.
3. The decision to join Golden State would ruin LeBron’s legacy forever.
The third and final reason why this makes zero sense involves one reason only: LeBron’s seemingly inability to get the Jordan monkey off his back. Despite being better in nearly all statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocks) and reaching the height of his powers during his FIFTEENTH year playing in the league, basketball idealists still cling to the notion that Jordan and his spotless Finals record will always cause him triumph over LeBron. In the beginning of his career, LeBron was seen as unable to take the next step into the territory of greatness- becoming a “coward” after leaving Cleveland in order to win two titles in Miami. He sought to do right by his eighteen-year-old promise to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland in 2016, restoring his legacy on both a local and national scale as well as strengthening the argument for why he should be recognized as the best to ever play the sport. If LeBron, after losing to the Golden State Warriors three out of the past four years in the championship, decided to join the very team he has sought to take down- it would take away virtually all of the current steam behind his movement up the rankings and send him into uncharted territory. It would make Durant’s move look good, replace him as one of the biggest sellouts in sports history and form a literal monopoly on the league for the next two-three years until the Bucks can finally get Giannis a decent coach. Unless those aliens from Space Jam are coming soon and we need FIVE future Hall of Famers on one roster to defeat them, I just can’t see LeBron willing to join forces with the enemy. I can just picture the photoshopped images of Steve Kerr with the Darth Sidious hoodie on, the Darth Vader mask over LeBron’s quickly depressing hairline- and the jokes running wild for the rest of time.