A lot will change on the NBA landscape between now and the start of free agency on July 1, and it would be disingenuous for anyone to predict with any degree of certainty where he will play next. But if anyone tries to blame him for leaving, they’re wrong. Lebron has done everything he set out to do for Cleveland. This time the decision is very different.
When Lebron James came back to Cleveland in 2014 after winning a couple of championships in Miami with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, it was initially seen as the final move for the future Hall of Famer’s career. But nothing is ever set in stone in the NBA, and another split between the LBJ and the Cavs seems to be in the works. Lebron has already accomplished his goal of bringing a title to Cleveland and this has freed him in a sense to do what he wants with his career.
The relationship between James and owner Dan Gilbert could play a key role in the decision-making process. Gilbert wrote an infamous open letter to Cavaliers fans in 2010 after the future Hall of Famer signed with the Miami Heat. This letter by Gilbert came off as disrespectful and made him appear ungrateful for everything that James had done for the franchise. James has been quoted saying that he believes race was a hidden motive behind the letter written by Dan Gilbert. LeBron has been quoted saying he'll give the city of Cleveland "passion, commitment and inspiration" but noted he "owes nobody anything." LeBron wants to raise his young family in Ohio. He wants to compete for titles with the Cavaliers, but Gilbert is making it so hard that LeBron, the best player of his generation and arguably the best in the history of basketball, might give up those dreams just to get away from him.
Lebron wanted to win titles, and Cleveland was not in a place to do that like Miami had been after retaining Dwayne Wade and landing Chris Bosh. But this time, if LeBron leaves after that love letter to Ohio, after bringing a championship to long-suffering Cleveland, it’s on Gilbert. Cleveland doesn’t get a choice in this battle, but James does have a choice. Dan Gilbert continually makes the wrong moves and continues to waste the best player in the world’s talents. Every year he has to put the team on his back and run them to another NBA finals. James achieved what he set out to achieve now it is time to try and catch Michael. James has already admitted that he is chasing Michael Jordan. In the eyes of many, James cannot catch Jordan unless he wins more championships.
Unfortunately, Cleveland may not be the best location for James to rack up on trophies. Can he do that in Cleveland? Nothing Gilbert’s ownership and the GM has shown me says that he can. I mean look at game 2 against Indiana. LeBron James carried the Cavaliers to a win over the Pacers while scoring 46 points on 17-for-24 shooting and 10-for-13 from the line. James added 12 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and two three-pointers. They won by 3! This is not a team that is built to help him win. They’re wasting his talent. LeBron has also always been judged against lofty ideals, against the standards of his elite peer group. He’s been graded against expectations, and as we know, expectations have always been impossibly high for LeBron. As an individual and, since about 2007, as the leader of a team, the collective fandom has expected LeBron to achieve at an incredibly high level. With a few exceptions, he usually meets those expectations. He often exceeds them to a remarkable degree. Cleveland doesn’t make it any easier. It is time he goes somewhere that he has the help like he did in Miami.