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CLEVELAND — It’s always OK to dream about LeBron James playing for your team, but for the Los Angeles Lakers, it would be wise to keep those dreams in check.
Now, don’t misunderstand. The Lakers are an up-and-coming team with some excellent youth and exciting star potential in rookies Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, as well as second-year man Brandon Ingram. And no less than Magic Johnson is the man in charge of the basketball side.
The Lakers have hope, and lots of it. They have tons of fans. They have Hollywood. They have better weather than Bath, Ohio, the quiet community near Akron where James currently resides.
Oh, the Lakers can also create some serious space under the salary cap and keep all their key pieces — setting them up for a run at basketball’s king, who will enter free agency (yet again) in July.
James admires Johnson and respects the Lakers’ plan. There is nothing at all wrong with the Lakers.
They just aren’t Cleveland.
In Cleveland, everything is All LeBron, All the Time. No matter who else comes to the Cavs, it is now and forever LeBron’s team.
With the reality TV show that is Ball and his father stealing all the headlines in LA, that would not be the case with the Lakers. LeBron would be big news — but not often the biggest. Not at 33-years old, which is how old he will be at the end of the month.
Granted, both James and his agent, Rich Paul, have gone on record and said the only thing that matters to James is competing for championships.
What they haven’t said is if the Cavaliers can compete for championships, then the Cavaliers will be their preference. They are both Northeast Ohio guys. Northeast Ohio is their home. Northeast Ohio means a lot to them. They want Northeast Ohio to be the place.
Basically, LeBron wants to compete for titles. He mostly hopes the Cavs continue to do it so he feels no need to leave.
Let’s play devil’s advocate.
Let’s say James decided to leave for LA. Let’s say the Lakers landed Oklahoma City star Paul George, too.
That would give the Lakers the likes of James, George, Ball, Ingram and the rest. Think they could beat a veteran Golden State Warriors team in seven-game playoff series?
But maybe not.
And since the Lakers and Warriors are in the same conference, if James doesn’t win, guess what that means? That’s right, it means his string of making consecutive appearances in the Finals has reached an end. It means he’s no longer The Man in the NBA.
It’s true that day is coming. It happens to everyone. Eventually, the body begins to fail. It slows down. It weakens. It stops soaring through the air with the greatest of ease.
But when that happens to LeBron, it won’t be such a big deal if he is still playing for the Cavs. This is his city. This is his team.These are his people. He will remain the face of the franchise well beyond his playing days if he so chooses.
In LA? He could be a legend, but never to the degree he is here. That’s just the truth. And James’ legacy is extremely important to him.
HOME HAS EDGE
Of course, James is a champion. He is showing no adverse affects from the many miles on his legs. He could go to the Lakers and quickly lead them back to glory.
There is no doubt about that, either.
And yes, I know, he has a mansion in LA. But he also attended high school at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. His sons will be in high school soon, and assuming James stays in Akron, that too is where they will go.
It’s hard to envision LeBron wanting his sons to play high school ball anywhere other than LeBron James Gymnasium at St. V.
But more important than any of that is the fact the Cavs are winning. They are showing James they will do whatever it takes to compete for championships.
And despite a rugged start, the Cavs are contenders once again. Most still consider them the favorites to come out of the East.
For James, the Lakers would be tempting for sure. They are undoubtedly on their way. But LeBron is all about home, and winning at home. He already has both and there is no reason to think it will suddenly end.
So it is OK for the Lakers to dream, but it’s a pipe dream. And that is the way it is highly likely to stay.