For LeBron, It’s Still About Rings

When LeBron went to Miami in 2010, it was about rings.  

When LeBron came back to Cleveland in 2014, it was about getting a ring for The Land.  Still, it was about rings.

And even though this LeBron decision encompasses other factors, possibly ones that weigh heavier than rings, those rings still matter.

They matter because they are the only thing holding LeBron James back from being the greatest basketball player ever.  

When we talk “greatest,” we mean everything.  Talent, career, persona.  Everything.  

It’s hard for anyone to admit that Michael Jordan was better at basketball than LeBron.  LeBron’s better than MJ in almost every facet on a basketball court; scoring ability is probably about equal.  MJ wasn’t the passer and play-maker LeBron is.  MJ wasn’t putting up 50 point triple doubles in the playoffs; he was scoring 60 instead.  You can knock either of those guys for those type of performances, but they were great in their own ways.  That’s why it is so hard to compare.

But LeBron hasn’t had a better career than Jordan yet.  The Finals record sticks out like a sore thumb even though LeBron’s been to more.  I think LeBron’s 15 years of dominance is equally as ridiculous as MJ winning three rings, retiring for two years, then coming back and winning three more.  

To say LeBron’s had a better career means that’d we have to say “Well, he was up against one of the greatest teams of all-time in the Finals for four years!”

I don’t want to make excuses for the best player of all-time.  We don’t for MJ.

The LeBron GOAT crowd acts as if LeBron is already retired and that he has nothing left to prove.  I’m certainly open to moving LeBron to No.1 all-time.  I mean, he’s moved up four spots since I launched this site, and he’s unquestionably the 2nd or 3rd best player ever right now.  But he needs just a little more on that resume.  

LeBron announced yesterday WHILE I WAS IN THE AIR ON A SIX HOUR FLIGHT that he is joining the Los Angeles Lakers, following in the footsteps of five of the 11 greatest players of all-time to put on that uniform.  All five of those have won rings with the team.  It’s now LeBron’s turn.  It’s his turn to be the face of the Lakers, and it’s his turn to be named the best ever.

LeBron going the Lakers has some pros and cons.  We’re gonna through them quickly, as what’s below is a draft I wrote on the plane yesterday exploring all of LeBron’s options (Not just LA).  Scenarios that are irrelevant have been deleted.

Pros: It’s the Lakers and LA, where LeBron can bounce between his two Brentwood mansions and start his entertainment company, put his son in one of the country’s best basketball high schools (Sierra Canyon), and play with Lonzo Ball and be coached by his Dad!  Yeah!

From a basketball perspective, this Lakers roster is in better shape than people are giving it credit for.  I had high doubts he’d sign there without one of Kawhi or DeMarcus Cousins coming with him.  That’s looking unlikelier by the minute, as the Spurs are refusing to deal Kawhi to the Western Conference and Boogie’s contract demands may exceed what LA is willing to spend.  The Lakers are pretty fun still without a 2nd superstar.  Trotting out Ball-Brandon Ingram-Kyle Kuzma-Lebron-JaVale McGee works in today’s league.  You have Kentavious Caldwell-Pope off the bench as a scorer, and Lance Stephenson grinding on defense and trying too hard on offense.  They have some holes to fill, but it’s not bad on paper.    The core of the team is LeBron and a bunch of kids he’d have to babysit, but at least they’re more talented than J.R. Smith and Jordan Clarkson.  

This is Los Angeles and the Lakers, who now have LeBron James to recruit.  Even if the Lakers strike out on Kawhi and Boogie this Summer, they can go at next year’s stacked free agent class.  As I said above, it’s not like next year’s team is a disaster either.  Ingram could take a step forward, and though I wasn’t high on Ball before the 2017 Draft, I expect him to be better than he was last season.  I think Kyle Kuzma isn’t much worse than Jayson Tatum; he’s a No.1 option on a good team some day.  Even without any additional star power, the Lakers are a top five team in the ridiculous West.

Cons: This team isn’t enough against the Warriors next season.  Oh, and even if they do miraculously beat the Warriors, you still have to beat the Celtics or 76ers in the Finals.  The Warriors are the tougher task, but what if Kawhi gets traded to Philly instead?  What if Philly is running out Ben Simmons-Kawhi-JJ Redick-Dario Saric-Joel Embiid?  That’s quite a team.

The Lakers striking out on stars is becoming a hilarious trend.  Paul George was as close as a guarantee is to go there.  I went back and found that the last Lakers marquee free agent signing was Shaq in 2001.  It’s been 17 years!

I’m not sure Boogie added to this team is enough.  Ingram is just a theoretical piece; he’s got potential but isn’t exceptionally good at anything yet.  Ball may never figure out his shot and doesn’t play defense.  Boogie’s a reluctant rim protector.  LeBron has shown no interest on defense lately.  That team is not shutting down Golden State.  They’d have to outscore them.

And what happens when LaVar Ball says something about LeBron that isn’t taken very kindly?  Is Lonzo Ball automatically out?  Does Luke Walton have a job in two years?  What if somehow LeBron’s body starts to breakdown?

These are all very, very hypothetical scenarios.  But in Lakerland, as we’ve seen the past eight years, anything is possible.  LeBron’s smart; he knows what he’s getting himself into.  If everything goes his way, then there will be no more debates.