Perhaps the Houston Rockets could accommodate him, as their aging stars have taken two runs at the Golden State Warriors without yet upending those basketball artistes. And there is Portland, whose Trail Blazers discovered again that an offense led by two guards is a talent-limited proposition. The Utah Jazz have tried to clamber up the cliff-wall of the playoffs for several years running and may welcome James’s hand on the climbing rope.
James and his wishes will of course play a considerable role here. He spent his glory years in Miami walking South Beach with all the delights that suggests. He returned to his home state and won a championship for the Cleveland Cavaliers and gained immunity against the grumblers in his native woods.
Then he turned his eyes to Los Angeles and Hollywood and the glittering Pacific, and surprised no one by signing with the Lakers. Would he so quickly leave?
Let’s not paint James as a romantic misbegotten. Like most great stars, he retreats to a chill corner of his brain to make his basketball decisions and he’s not hesitated to cast out coaches and players who displease him. You find that aspect of his personality unpleasant? Recall that Michael Jordan once cold-cocked Steve Kerr in practice, and Kerr later hit the game-winning shot that brought the Chicago Bulls another championship.
Sports stars are not avuncular. LeBron’s desire to win led him this season to publicly campaign for trading most of his young team to the New Orleans Pelicans in return for center Anthony Davis. That effort failed and left a lot of the Lakers’ young players looking as startled as chickens spared the butcher’s knife.
Could he leave? That would involve leaving behind his Brentwood mansions (two by last count) and the chance to watch his son Bronny Jr., a top teenage talent, play basketball, not to mention the chance to do lunch with megawatt sorts. I once had a Cavaliers fan complain of James’s exit and say that her city’s leafier suburbs reminded visitors of Santa Monica.
I mean, maybe, I guess, but meaning no offense, not really. I love my neighborhood of Flatbush, Brooklyn, but it’s not Malibu. Maybe LeBron, the aspiring entertainment impresario, is content to play out his final days in Los Angeles. For the sake of the rest of us, I hope the player who took his team to eight consecutive finals can rouse himself to roar once more.
If Kyrie Irving, the flat-Earth scholar, opts not to return to James’s fold, if Kawhi Leonard the Inscrutable waves off the blandishments of Los Angeles, if Kevin Durant opts to try to restore life to the corpse that is the Knicks, James should text the Lakers’ so-called brain trust and type in five words:
Get Me Out of Here.