LeBron James recently signed a 4-year, $153.3 million contract to play with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Do I have an issue with him signing with the Lakers? Not really, but I do believe it highlights some of the biggest issues in the NBA today and demonstrates why it is among the least competitive professional leagues in the world.
What was it that made the all-time greats like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and of course Michael Jordan as beloved as they once were and currently are?
Their passion on the court and their competitive drive.
LeBron is a freak athlete who genuinely works hard at his craft. I have nothing but respect for the work he has put into his career or his talent. However, I believe that he is the biggest reason why the quality of competition in the NBA is the worst it has ever been, literally.
It all started with his infamous move to Miami back prior to the 2011 season. His 2010 campaign ended with an embarrassing playoff loss to the Boston Celtics at the Garden and the last sight of him from that year was pulling off his Cavaliers jersey as he was walking off the court and into the tunnel.
Fans and journalists, even some members of the NBA began to call him out. Was he a winner or just a choke artist? Was he all hype?
As a result, James reached out to one of his best friends in Dwayne Wade who was among the top players in the world for the Miami Heat. The two of them decided it was time to ensure LeBron would win a championship at all costs and eventually recruited fellow all-star Chris Bosh.
The trio led the Heat to four-straight finals appearances while winning two, and the rest was history.
In all fairness, that Heat squad was not the first super team. The 2007-08 Celtics of course won the championship with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen just a few years prior.
The difference though? The Heat were the first team to ever be assembled by the players instead of the management, which has led to this embarrassment of an association over the past 3-5 years.
Thanks to players like LeBron, the NBA is strictly a stars-driven league. I’m all for the players having power since they are in fact each sport’s biggest asset. But when they are running the show to this extent, it becomes a circus.
NBA general managers no longer truly organize their rosters … whoever is the current superstar on the team does. GM’s just have to keep a smile on to keep the player happy and sign the dotted line when instructed to.
I’ve never played or coached basketball … I haven’t even assisted with a team, but thanks to LeBron and many other superstars, I could be an NBA coach. Just sit back and relax, the players will do their thing. Just make sure you stay out of the way and curry favor when necessary.
Most NBA superstars nowadays go into each season with the mindset of “Who can help me win?” instead of “What can I do to win?”
There’s no such thing as work harder, sacrifice more, dig deeper. It’s now “Let me call my buddy to bail me out.”
The Golden State Warriors have won three of the last four championships. They did it the right way for the first one. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were homegrown products and pulled off the win over LeBron and the Cavs.
Once LeBron and company came back healthy the following year and turned the tables, the Warriors knew they had to hit the phones instead of the court to practice more.
In came Kevin Durant, a former MVP who was beginning to face the same questions as LeBron did back in 2010, and who was close friends with Curry.
Here we are … two straight finals wins later.
Now that LeBron was a free agent and realized that he wouldn’t be able to beat the Warriors in Cleveland, he decided to pack his bags and head west.
The Lakers are the perfect situation for LeBron. They are rebuilding, which means they have young players that were willing to be yes men and the team also has money to spend. These young kids also provide trade assets.
Plus, who wouldn’t want to move to the golden coast? Overall, LeBron gets to build his new team from scratch to his liking while also being in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. LeBron has already been on the recruiting trails and will likely have at least one or two superstar buddies playing alongside him in the near future.
Let me make myself clear, this is no longer just a LeBron issue. Many teams have followed this system … LeBron is simply the one who pioneered it. I have no problem with the Warriors adding Durant considering they are allowed to do it and that is what the league is now … as silly as it is.
Take me back to the days when players wanted to beat the other best players instead of joining them. Take me back to the days when a finals loss meant the players wanted to prove they could do it the next year with the same core instead of recruiting MVPs. Take me back to the days when it came down to the top 7 or 8 teams instead of the top 2 or 3.
I would love to see LeBron retire a Laker and put an end to this era, but unfortunately, I fear it is only the beginning.