I think I’ve solved the LeBron James problem. Not that there’s really a LeBron James problem—unless you’re the Indiana Pacers, I suppose. Regardless, we’ve found ourselves in a place where everything and anything the self-dubbed King does is polarizing enough to make the SportsCenter bottom line.
And so, whenever he decides to make a new commercial, tweet about Draft picks, or (of course) opt out of his contract, the decision is met with incredible amounts of scrutiny and analysis—most of which doesn’t really matter.
So that’s where we are. In a hovering pattern waiting for things to finalize with LeBron so we can move on with the rest of our lives and find someone else to scrutinize. Johnny Manziel is the early frontrunner for the athlete to carry on our ire in the fall, but that’s a different story entirely.
The question now is where will LeBron James play next season.
If you believe the always on-point Vegas oddsmakers, Bron will be back in Miami. Or at least that’s what the smart money is saying. They also have odds on Cleveland (7/2), Chicago (13/2), Houston (3/2) and the Lakers (15/1) as possible landing spots for James.
All of this sounds reasonable and you could even make enough of an argument for each of those teams to possibly sway someone into believing that any of those teams will be where James ends up.
But I have a better idea.
What if, and in the words of one of the Bobs from Office Space, this is a hypothetical, but what if LeBron decided he was going to try something different. Not different in the sense of a max deal with a new team, but different in the sense of something that we’ve never seen before.
Now maybe we’re onto something, right?
So without further ado, I present to you the Absolutely Absurd No Chance In Hell This Ever Happens But We’re Going To Run With It Anyways—LeBron James Presents The NBA’s Wandering Vagabond Assassin.
Let’s do this.
LeBron James is the best player in the League, right? There isn’t a lot of disputing that right now. James has had a remarkable career, and it’s only about 60 percent done. He’s taken some very unremarkable teams to quite remarkable heights in his career—none of which were more impressive than the 2007 Cavaliers that he carried to the Finals with Larry Hughes as the team’s second best player.
Seriously. Larry Hughes. Who, to make this even more ridiculous, was making more than twice the annual salary that LeBron made that year. Good grief, Charlie Brown.
Now, if LeBron could carry Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic and the rest of the Cleveland homeless population to the title, what can’t he do?
(I realize the answer to that question is likely ‘win the title’ since they were swept by the Spurs that year, but this isn’t exactly an article where logic and reason stand strong.)
Back to the present.
LeBron is an interesting character in the sense that he is kind of a superstar without a home. The Miami fans love him, sure, but even that seems like a very superficial relationship that came about more out of convenience than true adoration. And, other than the Heat, LeBron is a generally reviled figure around the rest of the League.
So here’s what I’m proposing;
LeBron decides to scrap the long-term max deal and decides to sign 1-year deals with various teams for the rest of his career simply to see just how good he is—and just how far he can take each team.
Makes sense, right?
Alright maybe not, but let’s just humor the idea for a minute and see where this goes. And, just so things don’t get more absurd than they already are, we’re going to keep LeBron in the East for the rest of his career and focus purely on the teams that didn’t reach the postseason last year. I also left the Knicks off the roster because they’ve already moved half their starting lineup from last season and trying to predict what the Knicks are going to do is a bit of a fruitless enterprise.
So here we go.
“I’m taking my talents to Philadelphia.”
PG: Michael Carter-Williams
SG: Tony Wroten
SF: LeBron James
PF: Thaddeus Young/Nerlens Noel
C: Joel Embiid (eventually/hopefully/we’re going to keep him here for the sake of the argument.)
“I’m taking my talents to Milwaukee.”
PG: Brandon Knight
SG: Giannis Anteokuonmpo
SF: Jabari Parker
PF: LeBron James
C: Larry Sanders
“I’m taking my talents to Cleveland.”
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Andrew Wiggins
SF: LeBron James
PF: Tristan Thompson/Anthony Bennett
C: Anderson Varejao
“I’m taking my talents to Charlotte.”
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: LeBron James
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF: Noah Vonleh
C: Al Jefferson
“I’m taking my talents to Washington.”
PG: John Wall
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: LeBron James
C: Marcin Gortat
“I’m taking my talents to Orlando.”
PG: Elfrid Payton
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: LeBron James
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: Nikola Vicevic
“I’m taking my talents to Boston.”
PG: Rajon Rondo/Marcus Smart
SG: LeBron James
SF: Jeff Green
PF: Brandon Bass
C: Kelly Olynyk
Let’s be honest here after looking at these starting rosters—every single one of those teams would make the Playoffs right away with James on the roster. That’s obvious.
But what’s most impressive is that each of these teams very well could still come out of the Eastern Conference and make it to the Finals. Other than maybe Chicago if Derrick Rose is healthy (or they add Carmelo Anthony), each of these teams would probably be the best in the conference just by adding James. And these aren’t exactly squads that are just one or two pieces away from competing. These are perennial losers (Boston excluded) that without James are looking at at least an additional two-to-three years of rebuilding before having a remote chance of contending.
LeBron changes all of that.
How entertaining would it be to see LeBron bounce around the League with a new group of guys each season just to see how far he can take them? In my mind, that would be pretty damn fun. And even more interesting, just how far could he take each of these teams?
You have to assume that if the team knows they have LeBron for one season they’re going to do whatever they can to put talent on the roster for that particular year. So the lineups I’ve listed above would likely improve even further once LeBron is in the fold.
How many titles could he win? One? Two? Maybe even more? He would also have the added bonus of being the guy to bring the first championship to several of those teams. He could have his jersey retired in about five different buildings. Since he’s not going to catch Jordan in terms of legacy and overall status in the basketball pantheon, why not try something else and see where it goes?
Obviously a lot of it depends on the landscape of the Western Conference, as teams like San Antonio and Oklahoma City aren’t exactly dismantling, but it’s still fun to think about. Is LeBron that great of a player that he could take all of these losing teams and lead them to the promise land by himself?
Maybe it’s not as crazy as it sounds. But likely it is.
Obviously this isn’t something that will happen or even could happen. But the bigger point here is just how special LeBron James is as a player and how dynamic his skillset is. He’s such a well-rounded player he complements everyone else on the floor, and makes them all better.
I don’t mean to get into a long, drawn-out lovefest over LeBron, even though I do believe eventually he returns to Miami to finish what he started. I simply wanted to find a different way to look at the incessant maw of free agency rumblings and rumors.
And, even with a crazy idea with no chance of happening, I think we’ve accomplished that.
At least for one day.