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The Case For LeBron To Leave For The Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James came back. He brought Cleveland a championship. It’s the perfect, feel-good sports story, as his camp no doubt intended. 

The worst ending, for that story, would be for him to leave for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles as a free agent. But, one can argue it would be a new beginning for LeBron.

Cleveland hasn’t been sugar and champagne since LeBron returned. Tension has bubbled under the surface, when it has not been flaring above it. There has been drama with Kyrie, drama with Kevin Love, and talk that one or both could/should/would like to be sent out of town. A head coach was jettisoned midseason.

The Cavs’ triumph was more one man’s force of will than a complete, functional team.

Before issuing his rousing Cleveland sound byte after winning, LeBron spoke of the trials and tribulations he’s endured to get there. Heaven knows those weren’t natural ones related to his basketball prowess.

Maybe LeBron came back out of enduring loyalty to the Cleveland fans, who made him a pariah and burned his jersey. Maybe he wanted to work with Dan Gilbert again, who once tried to torch him in Comic Sans. But, perhaps, his move back was more about control. Pat Riley had it in Miami. LeBron has it in Cleveland.
The Case For LeBron To Leave For The Los Angeles Lakers
Cleveland offered LeBron the chance to build a tailored, younger core around himself compared to an aging, expensive one in Miami. It was the right basketball decision. LeBron refused to commit long-term. He had the leverage. He turned down a long-term deal to maintain it. Dan Gilbert doesn’t own LeBron. LeBron owns Dan Gilbert.

Can LeBron maintain that control? His one-year contract gambit may not work again in Cleveland. Claiming the local guy mantle means one must commit or get off the pot. Everyone in the Cavs’ locker room and organization, with their own thoughts and opinions, is now an NBA Champion.

LeBron dragged that team across the line. It’s not clear how many more years, entering season No. 14, he’ll be able to do that. Cleveland does have an easy route to the Finals in the East. But, perhaps there may be a better option?

Consider the Los Angeles Lakers from a basketball perspective. Kobe is gone. The team has a young core of top draft picks. They have an absurd amount of cap room. They could add LeBron and two/three large pieces, pieces he wants to play with. He could even bring in J.R. and his pipe if so desired.

Also, recent revisionism aside, it’s The Lakers.

Basketball, of course, is only one concern. LeBron earns less than a third of his income playing basketball. Five to ten years from now that will be zero percent. He’s a business mogul. His business future is in LA. Cleveland is stagnation. He can grow his brand in Los Angeles. He has already put down roots there.

LeBron bought a $21 million mansion in Brentwood. He has a $15 million content creation deal with Warner Brothers. He is starring in the new Space Jam (and hopefully recovering Dwight Howard’s talent from the nerdlucks).

Is there a better jumping off point for LeBron’s brand and his professional future than resurrecting the Lakers and having every A-list Hollywood celebrity clambering to watch him at the Staples Center?

Maybe LeBron isn’t angling for an immediate move to Lala-land. But, clearly he has greater ambitions than hanging out on the Ohio State sidelines and being feted at the hip, fancy Taco Bell for eternity.

On the opposite coast, there’s Miami weather, his boy Dwyane, and no state income tax to consider.

LeBron’s move back to Cleveland in 2014 was couched in homecoming language. Winning the NBA title was the fruition of that. But, there were also basketball reasons for making that move. That part has not been perfect. LeBron may have less leverage moving forward to fix it.

Leaving for LA means LeBron would abandon a franchise and loyal fans for his own personal gain. It would be a dick move. But, it’s a move we’ve seen him do twice this decade already.

LeBron has had ample opportunity to clarify his situation and announce he will sign a long-term contract. He has, thus far, been silent.
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