The story of the Golden State Warriors and their dominance can’t be told without those planets revolving around the sun that is LeBron James. He’s the dominant star of the NBA, and if there’s any solace at all in the Cavaliers (presumably) losing another NBA Finals to the Warriors, it’s that as the current story unfurls into the history books, the dominant perspective of the Golden State Warriors will be a backdrop in the story of LeBron James and his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That time with the Cavaliers could be ending soon, of course. The speculation is maddening but less so in 2018 than at any other point in LeBron James’ history as an NBA player. The Cavaliers won a championship. The city of Cleveland got to have a parade and the prodigal son returned home and made good in the most impossible way imaginable. To think that he overcame not only the Golden State Warriors, but his own dark history with the region after The Decision is the stuff of storybooks. To outsiders, it feels like hypocrisy for the same fan base that crushed LeBron for years after he left to embrace him and once again worship at the altar of his formidable basketball career. When it comes to history books, however, that perceived hypocrisy might be a footnote at most. It’s just sports debate palaver, as fleeting as any other narrative.
I figure there’s a pretty good chance that LeBron James decides to leave Cleveland again. There are numerous basketball reasons for that to be the case. LeBron James is playing on an odd roster of not-quite-good-enough veterans and not-quite-good-enough prospects. There’s a case to be made that there are some useful pieces in the near and long-term, but once you factor in the competitive landscape of the league and the seeming lack of flexibility on the Cavaliers, it’s difficult to make the case that this Cavaliers team is much better than the one LeBron James left the first time around.
Simultaneous to that realization is that LeBron James is the market maker. LeBron James joined the team with Kyrie Irving already in place, but it was his presence that brought Kevin Love. Despite the fact that J.R. Smith has become a punching bag after his Game 1 gaffe, there’s no denying his utility in winning the championship in 2016. That move was made by David Griffin, but it became a winning move because LeBron James committed to making it a success. There’s no doubt in the world that if LeBron James decided to stay in Cleveland that with his commitment the team would be able to create some compelling basketball reasons why you should continue to bet on the Cavaliers remaining atop the Eastern Conference for the immediate future. Koby Altman might get some of the credit, but LeBron James and his powerful gravity are the true enablers. You can’t arrive at the Cavaliers turning over the roster merely by extrapolating what the Cavaliers have and what we know today. Like with everything else in the NBA today, LeBron is the first and biggest domino.
Regardless, short of holding a sequel to The Decision, I’m fine with whatever happens next. What happened with LeBron James and the city of Cleveland in the past seems further away than ever before. LeBron James has defied the odds and at this point has become unassailable from my vantage point. He’s as close to perfect on and off the court as you could ever expect anyone to be. He’s managed to deliver for this city in a way that no other athlete ever has in my lifetime, and continues to give back to the region in an unprecedented manner.
If LeBron James does decide to leave for basketball reasons, I’ll find a way to understand because I will know it’s not a decision that will come easily. If nothing else, LeBron has proven to be a diligent decision maker who doesn’t take his moves lightly.
But if LeBron decides to stay, it might be confusing to basketball insiders and Northeast Ohio outsiders, but it was all in his letter when he came back.
“But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.”
“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”
The 2018 NBA Finals are all but over. Even LeBron James can’t defy the odds and beat these Warriors four straight times in the NBA Finals. I’ve already come to grips with the fact that I’ll have to endure Warriors talk for the next few weeks as they add another banner to the rafters of their arena. It’s some short-term pain that I’ll have to endure but it’s alright because it won’t last forever. Because LeBron James played and won here on our behalf, I know that will be the enduring memory and holy hell has it all been worth it.
I got to hang out with Stipe Miocic and Modelo…
On Monday, I got to go to the Valley View Fire Department where Stipe Miocic was doing some press for Modelo. He was showing some of his firehouse workouts. They ended up producing this video and I got a few minutes to record a podcast with Stipe. It was a great time. Hope you enjoy it.