There’s no scenario in play that leaves open the possibility that LeBron James will leave Cleveland, right?
Let’s all close our eyes together — a group activity if you will — and remember back to the summer of 2010. Long before Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert made a fool of himself. Long beore Cavaliers fans were seen burning Kings James’ jerseys. Long before James made a spectacle of himself by holding “The Decision” on ESPN.
Do you remember 2010? It was long ago. It also came at a time when most in the Ohio area were convinced their native son would retire a member of the Cavaliers.
Then. Boom. In one instant, the King himself was off to South Beach quicker than Johnny Manziel to Burning Man.
This tore apart the collective hopes of a title returning to Cleveland for the first time in almost a half century.
James would go on to lead the Miami Heat (or ride Dwyane Wade’s coattails) to two titles before ultimately returning to Cleveland.
Again, this left people a gasp. Could Cavaliers fans put those burnt jerseys back together? Would they accept James back into their downtrodden sports lives?
In Miami, fans started to turn on James at a level we had not seen since those in Cleveland found themselves rooting for Andy Varejao as the face of the Cavaliers franchise.
What’s to stop James from pulling the wool over on these fans again? He opted out of his contract after leading the team to the title he determined to be his primary reason for returning.
It wasn’t about multiple titles. It wasn’t about a legacy in Cleveland. James already had two championships.
Cavaliers fans, and the ownership group, would have built that monument — representing a legacy — even if James had not returned the first time.
All this is fun and games. We can hear the deep breaths of exhaustion through our computer screens.
“Not this again,” some will conclude. “James isn’t leaving,” others will chime in. They are voices this one scribe hears in his head writing this article.
While a departure from Cleveland won’t be the end result here, James is a free agent. Until he signs on the dotted line to return to a franchise that for all intents and purposes should be named after him, there is that slim possibility he bolts town with the Larry O’Brien trophy in tow.
Under this extreme hypothetical, where would James’ best landing spots be? Where would he be seen as the next sports deity?
Here’s a look at six such possibilities.
1. Golden State Warriors
Wouldn’t this be a kick? It’s not the whole “if you can’t beat them, join them” thing. James already beat the Warriors — almost literally — by pulling a combination of Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.
And in reality, that was the type of performance James needed to beat last year’s version of the Warriors — a team that had defeated James’ Cavaliers the year prior.
We know the Warriors are looking for a small forward to replace a player in Harrison Barnes that James made look like a lesser version of Adam Morrison. While we all focus on the Durant sweepstakes as the NBA’s version of Seinfeld’s “The Hamptons” episode, why shouldn’t the Warriors reach out to James?
We’re talking about the Bay Area. A new arena in San Francisco. A team that won 73 games a season ago. A larger market. The two-time reigning NBA MVP.
We’ve seen this dog and pony show from James before. It led to him running off to Miami to unite with another former MVP that had a title already in hand.
In all seriousness, James to the Warriors makes sense only in that he plays a position the team is looking to upgrade. It’s not a sensible fit due to his skill-set on offense and the Warriors scheme on that end of the court. One can still dream, right?
2. Miami Heat
Can you just imagine James announcing his decision to rejoin Wade and the Heat on Snapchat with a banana boat filter?
This would best his ill-fated “The Decision” show in ESPN or that self-absorbing Sports Illustrated piece announcing his return to Cleveland.
In all actuality, it would break the Internet faster than Hillary choosing Donald to be her vice president.
Taking everything else, James’ reputation included, out of the equation, this remains a good fit. He worked well with Wade in leading Miami to four consecutive conference titles and back-to-back Larry O’Brien trophies. James was also a solid fit in Erik Spoelstra’s system.
There didn’t seem to be any bad blood between James and the Heat organization, his best buddy Dwyane Wade included.
If somehow something were to come up leading to a snag in talks between Cleveland and James, there’s no reason to believe that the reigning NBA Finals MVP wouldn’t look a bit further south for a new/old home.
We’re pretty sure Gabrielle Union wouldn’t have an issue with James and Wade getting their cuddling on together again. The Heat just need to make sure Nick Young isn’t a part of this about-face. That wouldn’t end too well.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
— 97.3 ESPN FM (@973espn) June 23, 2016
If James were to lead the Sixers to a title, the NBA would be best off eliminating his four Finals losses from the record books.
In turn, Philadelphia would replace the Rocky Steps with James knocking out Sam Hinkie in the latest version of that Philly classic.
The Sixers have been bad for so long it’s hard to remember when they were actually relevant. Maybe when Allen Iverson stepped over James’ current coach Tyronn Lue’s body in the Finals eons ago.
That was so long ago that the Warriors themselves were seen as a lesser version of the Sixers. No really, think about that.
We’d definitely love to see James take a downtrodden organization and make it relevant again. Especially, when looking at the history of basketball itself in Philadelphia.
With Ben Simmons, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric in the mix, adding a veteran to this young cast could make Philly a potential playoff contender in short order.
It would also add to James’ already awesome legacy. Instead of going to a team with a championship foundation already built in, he could help turn around another fledgling basketball city. That would speak more to his legacy than the two titles he won in South Beach.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
It’s a crying shame that James and Kobe Bryant never played in the Finals. It’s even more of a shame that they never suited up together in the NBA.
Is it possible that James could come to Los Angeles as a way to lure Kobe from his cryogenics chamber for one last hurrah before the latter returns to his deep sleep en route to a trip to Wayward Pines?
Okay, let’s assume for a second Bryant is cool hanging out with Jackie Chan and doing all that awesome stuff.
James himself would be a darn good fit with the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and rookie Brandon Ingram. He’d also work well in Luke Walton’s offensive scheme, especially without the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the court.
But let’s be real for the first time in this article. The Lakers couldn’t even secure a meeting with Kevin Durant (more on that here).
That’s how much the history and name of this organization means in today’s NBA. In the end, the team will probably just settle on overpaying Marvin Williams or something.
5. Chicago Bulls
James wants to attempt to one-up Michael Jordan in what promises to be a disturbingly bad version of “Space Jam.” That’s fine and dandy.
But what if James were to come to Chicago and lead the Bulls to their first title since Jordan pretty much parted the Great Lake all by himself? This is a story so good that even Vince Vaughn’s acting couldn’t ruin it.
Heck, James could even take native son Dwyane Wade with him, forming the best Windy City-based duo since Elwood and Jake Blues.
Could Jimmy Butler and James work well together or would the latter have an issue with the preferential treatment Butler reportedly received from the Bulls’ organization? Yeah, we’re not so sure either.
6. Los Angeles Clippers
Trade Blake Griffin to the Sixers for pennies on the dollar (almost literally). That would be the first step in the Clippers being able to land James.
They’d then need to convince the world’s best player to take a pay cut to come to a team that stands no real chance to win the Western Conference as currently constructed.
This would have to occur after Doc Rivers finds a way to convince Durant in The Hamptons that both Oakland and Miami can cause shrinkage. Durant would then need to pass that along to James.
Only then, would the Clippers stand a reasonable chance of acquiring King James.
Though, there’s a lot to like about this potential marriage. We already know that James is friends with Chris Paul. Not friends in the way that you include someone in a group text. No, not that way.
When you’re a man and riding a banana boat with another man, that bromance meaning has taken on a whole new level. James could decide that he can’t go a day without having a bestie like Paul in his life. Don’t judge. You’re simply jealous.