LeBron James is a Laker. 4 years, $154 million, take-the-money-and-run Los Angeles Tinseltown Lakers.
And his supporting cast? Well, he’s just traded the Canton Charge for the South Bay Lakers, with Lonzo Ball, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and whatever other curios and relics a 35-win team in 2017-18 can drag off the bottom of the ocean off Long Beach and suit up in a Lakers uniform.
Paul George re-upped with the Thunder. The Spurs would rather surrender the Alamo than trade Kawhi Leonard to Los Angeles unless it’s to the Clippers. And the Rockets are one Trevor Ariza short of the same roster as last year while the Warriors are down one Shaqtin’ MVP and up four All-Stars, the same bunch that swept LeBron’s Cavs out of the 2018 Finals and nearly ran the table in the playoffs in 2017.
So just one question remains…
What in the absolute unholy crap is LeBron James thinking?
Well, for one thing, there’s the money. And it is a lot of money. It is an insane amount of money, an unadulterated max slot, no pay cuts to build a supporting cast, screw-you-I-got-mine amount of money.
For another thing, LeBron is raising his family in the Los Angeles area…could this be at least in part about getting his son Bronny into a good situation to develop his skills for the NBA? Is it too early to start rumor-mongering about UCLA trading LaVar for LeBron as their official Sports Dad?
One also wonders if LeBron really cares about winning anymore. He’s been to eight straight Finals, but with the team that’s been put around him, there’s not a chance in hell he’s getting past the Rockets and Warriors, and he might not even get past the likes of Portland or Utah or Oklahoma City.
The Cavaliers needed seven games to get past the Pacers and another seven to get past the Celtics in the East. It’s hard to imagine the Lakers getting out of the first round in the Western Conference.
But then again, maybe that’s a silver lining in itself; it gives LeBron a longer offseason to be in movies and, through his Hollywood connections, make them.
After all, if Kobe has an Oscar, the bar has been raised for an NBA player’s legacy.
And playing on a trash team certainly opens the door for LeBron to emerge as a primary scorer; if he stays healthy, unlike Kobe Bryant on his mega-deal past the age of 34, he could get those 7,350 points he needs to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time scoring list.
Bron scored 2,251 points in Cleveland last season. He’s got four years on the contract. And he’s scored less than 1,838 points (a quarter of 7,350) only three times in his entire career—and in no four-year stretch has he totaled less than 7,350.
It’s a lot easier to stat-pad and chase history on a bad team.
Plus, he is already the sole member of the 30/8/8 Club (as in 30,000 points, 8,000 rebounds, and 8,000 assists); why not become the only player in NBA history to pull off a sort of career triple-double in terms of thousands of three different statistical categories?
When PG13 re-upped in Oklahoma City, if this were a basketball decision, we would naturally have expected LeBron’s next move to be to join the 76ers and shoot for a ninth straight Finals (which would make him the only player who is not Bill Russell or one of Russell’s teammates to pull that off) and a tenth overall Finals appearance (tied with Kareem for most by a non-Celtic) and start making runs at Russell’s career games and minutes records in Finals competition.
But instead, he went to Tinseltown.
And whatever his reasons, one thing is obvious:
LeBron James is no longer primarily concerned about winning titles.
What he is concerned about, as he turns 34 in December, is life after basketball—movies, his son’s career track, his own place on the career table of some of basketball’s most vaunted counting stats when it’s time to make his Hall of Fame speech.
So that’s why he’s in LA. When you think about it in terms other than competitive fire, it makes perfect sense.
But damn, is it ever going to be awkward to watch LeBron on yet another complete trash team, except this time he doesn’t have the wretched East to feast on in the playoffs.