5 reasons why LeBron chose the Lakers over Cavs

Family, life after basketball led James to LA

Daryl Ruiter
July 01, 2018 - 10:35 pm
LeBron James speak with reporters following the Warriors sweeping him and the Cavs in the 2018 NBA Finals.

Daryl Ruiter-92.3 The Fan

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Why?

That’s the question many Cavaliers fans and Clevelanders asked Sunday night after it was announced that LeBron James agreed to join the Los Angeles Lakers.

He was supposed to finish his career in Cleveland. Instead he'll finish it in Los Angeles. 

To James' credit he didn't drag this out. This decision was short, sweet and to the point. 

Here’s 5 reasons why James decided to pack up and head west.

1. He’s comfortable with his basketball legacy.

James’ move to Miami in 2010 after being unable to win a championship with what had become a very old Cavs team following 7 seasons was driven by the desire to win a title. It got him to The Finals for 4 straight years and 2 championships with the Heat.

In 2014 James returned to make good on ‘The Decision’ and to bring a championship to Cleveland, which he did in 2016, and in historic fashion. He has nothing more to prove despite now joining one of the league's iconic franchises that boasts 16 NBA championships. He's taking a long-view approach to this move, because he can afford to. 

2. Golden State became Goliath and turned him into David.

Following the 3-1 NBA Finals comeback in 2016 by James and the Cavs, Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City to join the 73-win Warriors, who were licking their wounds from an historic collapse. After splitting their first 2 NBA Finals meetings in 2015 and 2016 with Golden State winning 7 of the 13 Finals games between them, the Warriors won the last 2 Finals in convincing fashion, winning 8 of 9 Finals games.

The Cavs were maxed out of assets and deep into the luxury tax threshold as a repeat payer limiting their ability to add the piece or pieces needed to overcome the Warriors and make staying in Cleveland worth it.  

3. Constant chaos in Cleveland.

During his return to the Cavaliers, the franchise was constantly engulfed in chaos.

The first season back saw first-year head coach David Blatt, who was clearly overwhelmed and overmatched, fired despite the team being 30-11 and assistant Tyronn Lue take over in late January.

In 2017, general manager David Griffin, who had earned the respect of James, was not retained by owner Dan Gilbert after Griffin desired to be given more control over basketball operations. Gilbert, who always hovers over and has significant involvement in basketball personnel, balked and the 2 parted ways.

Then the second-best player on the team, Kyrie Irving demanded a trade after learning that his name was floated in trade scenarios. The player that hit the biggest shot in franchise history was dealt last August – to Boston of all teams for an injured Isaiah Thomas, a bunch of role players and a first-round draft pick.

With the Irving trade clearly a disaster, the Cavs cleaned house at the trade deadline in February and rebuilt the roster, including making a trade with the Lakers that ultimately opened the salary cap space to allow them to sign James this summer.  

4. Lack of trust.

Dating back to 2005 when Gilbert purchased the Cavs from Gordon Gund, James never seemed to truly trust or respect Gilbert. In fact, his first contract extension following his rookie deal was only for 3 years.

While James forgave Gilbert enough for the scathing comic sans letter that followed ‘The Decision’ in 2010, it was purely a working business relationship between them the last 4 years. James came back, but he made sure that Gilbert didn’t profit much from it financially by having him spend top dollar on the roster and pay nearly $150 million in luxury tax penalties over the last 3 seasons combined.

The writing was on the wall with the repeated short-term contracts that James could leave again. James, who never committed himself long-term to the Cavaliers despite talking about wanting to finish his career in Cleveland, signed a 1-plus-1 deal in 2014, again in 2015, then a 2-plus-1 in 2016. Part of that had to do with the league’s exploding salary cap so that James could continue to get his maximum cut of the rising cap.

Gilbert also didn’t trust James, which is why he coveted an unprotected lottery pick via Brooklyn in the Celtics-Irving trade to position the franchise to rebuild in a potential post-James era. Sunday night's decision proved that Gilbert’s mistrust of James was well founded.

5. Time to look beyond basketball.

For years James has labeled himself “more than an athlete.” James has consistantly talked about being bigger than basketball and after Game 4 of The Finals that saw Golden State sweep him and his team, James spoke of how big of a role his family would play in the decision to stay, or go, again. 

It was rumored that when James returned in 2014 that the decision was driven largely by his wife, Savannah, who wanted out of Miami so they could raise their family in northeast Ohio. James is now a 33-year old father of 3. His daughter Zhuri wasn’t even born when he moved to Miami. His oldest son, LeBron Jr. will be in the eighth grade this fall, a year away from high school. He’ll get an opportunity to play at a premiere school with some of the children of former NBA greats while not having to play in the shadow of his father at Akron St. Vincent St. Mary. 

After authoring one of the greatest playoff runs in NBA history in his 15th season this past year, even James knows father time remains undefeated. While James might still be in “championship mode” as he described following The Finals, he is looking beyond basketball and Los Angeles is the perfect city to build his post-career empire. James’ entertainment company – Springhill Entertainment – is in LA. He owns 2 homes in LA, the second of which just underwent a massive renovation.

When his career is over, James wants to be a force financially and there might be no one better than former Laker Magic Johnson, who met with James Saturday night to recruit him, to now guide him.