Now that the world knows where LeBron James will spend the next four years of his career, many have already begun to shift their thinking to something else:
What does this mean for LeBron’s legacy?
The first time that James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for another team, local fans burned his jerseys and made it known that they would never forgive the King.
But they did.
After spending four years in South Beach with the Miami Heat, James returned home on the promise that he’d bring them a championship. It would be a difficult promise to keep, but he succeeded in only his second season back. Not only did he bring them their first championship in franchise history, but he built a winning culture by taking them to the Finals every year he was in Cleveland. In total, James has made eight straight Finals dating back to his first year in Miami.
A day after announcing he would sign with the Los Angeles Lakers for 4-years and $154 million, the topic of James’ legacy and if it is damaged has become topic.
Should he have stayed in Cleveland and to continue to dominate the East?
Does him spurning his hometown once again make him into a villain?
I believe the answer to both of those questions is no.
I believe James made the right decision, both professionally and personally, and has actually helped his legacy.
When James left Cleveland in 2010, he did it in perhaps the worst way possible. Not only did he not deliver a championship during his first tenure, but there was the “Decision” on ESPN that seemed to elevate the town’s hatred towards him. And to make things even worse, he took another Eastern Conference team immediately to the Finals and eventually delivered a championship there.
But things were different this past weekend.
There was no interview. There was no stage. There was ESPN, but no James.
The announcement was quick and quiet. Despite the abundance amount of media coverage, James has yet to make a statement.
Also, this deal is different than others he’s signed in the past. LeBron has committed to at least three years with the Lakers, with an option for a fourth year. In the past, James would have had an option after the first or second year, showing this time around he plans on going nowhere anytime soon.
The biggest difference here is that James is going to a team that isn’t a winner. Although the Lakers have perhaps one of the winningest legacies in sports, they have been at the bottom of the Western Conference the past few seasons.
When James left for Miami, he was joining a team with a superstar in Dwyane Wade and another with fellow Heat newcomber Chris Bosh. Although the lineup is still a work in progress this offseason, it’s safe to say that the Lakers won’t be close to dethroning the Golden State Warriors. Even with LeBron.
The signing also shows that this move was less about winning in the immediate future, but more about his life in the near future.
This move shows that James, 33, is starting to think more about his life after basketball and Los Angeles is a great city to call home while making moves and plans for life in entertainment. He’s already a mega-star with endorsements and with his recent role in the movie Trainwreck, perhaps James is looking to plant deeper roots in Hollywood.
The three-year guarantee to stay in LA also shows that this deal may be more about family. With his children still young and in school, he may not want to uproot them during these formative years.
Had James made this “Decision 2.0” a media circus and went to an instant contender, I think that it may have hurt his legacy. But with all the signs pointing towards other factors besides winning next season, I think it’s safe to say that his legacy has been strengthen.
Especially since he delivered good on his promise of a championship in Cleveland.