By Randy Norman
While LeBron James is 33 years of age, he has shown the world that he still has plenty of gas in the tank. So far this season, James is averaging nearly a triple double each game and is shooting over 50% from the field. Not to mention, James recently became the youngest player ever to reach 30,000 points in his career, surpassing NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Amazingly even in the fifteenth season of his career, James remains a dominant force in the league and is indubitably one of the greatest players to ever step foot on the court. James is often compared to the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan, however the definitive factor that seems to always separate the two is championships. While James has won three rings thus far, he is still hungry for more—but the chances of him winning another in Cleveland are slim. Many sources have indicated that LeBron James is likely to decline his player option this offseason and become an unrestricted free agent. Although LeBron has not openly indicated that he is planning to leave Cleveland, if the Cavs are not able to overcome the struggles that they are having this season and find a way to win another NBA championship, much like in 2010 James will probably decide to take his talents elsewhere.
Numerous experts and analysts have made predictions of where LeBron may end up this offseason. Of those predictions some of the teams include the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks, and the Boston Celtics. Most recently though, it has been reported that James may be considering joining forces with Kevin Durant and Steph Curry in Golden State, providing that they can offer him a maximum salary. ESPN writer Chris Haynes indicated that the Warriors have not expressed any interest in pursuing James at this time. However, Haynes also notes that according to sources, “Out of respect for the Warriors’ winning culture, James would listen if Golden State explored ways to clear the necessary cap space” (Haynes, 2018, para. 3). As far-fetched as it may sound, it is actually possible for the Warriors to offer James a max deal. Should James choose to opt into his contract at the end of the season and waive his no trade clause, the Cavs would be able to trade him to the Warriors and get several players in return, along with a few draft picks (Marks, 2018).
When asked about the possibility of James going to Golden State, Warriors’ superstar Kevin Durant was very candid in denying the likelihood of that occurring. However Durant also told reporters, “In this league, just like a couple years ago, me coming here, nobody would have thought that” (Nathan, 2018, para. 10). Although the probability of James ending up in the Bay Area may be low, even Durant knows that it cannot be completely ruled out of the picture. Given the current trend in the NBA of building super-teams—which LeBron James started in 2010 when he joined forces with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade in Miami—it would not be a total surprise to see James head west and create what would certainly be the most talented and dominant NBA team the world has ever seen. Nevertheless, in the words of Stephen A. Smith, “If you even think about going to the Golden State Warriors, your legacy is tarnished forever.”
The criticism that Durant endured in 2016 when he decided to leave Oklahoma City for Golden State would be miniscule in comparison to the heat that LeBron would take if he does indeed decide to join the Warriors. In the 2016 Western Conference Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder blew a 3-1 series lead to the Warriors and missed the opportunity to compete for an NBA title. The same summer, Durant left the Thunder to join the already stacked Warriors, which was a decision that many considered to be an extremely weak move by a superstar and competitor. If James however, decides to join the Warriors this off-season, the opprobrium that he will likely receive as a competitor is unimaginable. James understandably would like to win a couple more championships before he retires, however joining the same team that the Cavs have failed to defeat in two of the past three NBA Finals; a team that already contains two future hall-of-famers (one of them being the second greatest basketball player in the world), could be construed as a weak and cowardly move.
Ultimately it is too early to speculate for sure where LeBron James will end up next season. There are several months left in the regular season and James’ focus right now is with the Cavaliers and doing everything in his power to get the team in better shape for the playoffs. It will be interesting though to see how the playoffs pan out, as the outcome will likely play a significant role in James’ decision to leave Cleveland.
Randy Norman is a junior at Bowling Green State University where he pursues a major in Sport Management with a specialization in General Business. He is originally from Bolingbrook, Illinois, a southwest suburb of Chicago. His primary sport interests include basketball, football, boxing, and track & field – both at the amateur and professional levels.