In the intervening month since LeBron James decided to take his talents to La-La Land, the reasons for his move have been well chronicled and thoroughly scrutinized. It comes with the territory, to be sure; given his history of success and continuing status as first among equals in the National Basketball Association, his transfer was expected to be assessed through critical lenses. For all the deluge of opinions from pundits, fellow players, and fans notwithstanding, no one position emerged as definitive, and with reason: He himself had yet to talk about his choice to become a Laker.
Until yesterday, that is. In free-wheeling interviews conducted on the occasion of the opening of his I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, James spoke freely of his thought process in free agency. It certainly didn’t last long; unlike in previous instances, he made his decision known on the very first day he could. And, unlike in previous instances, he did it sans any fanfare. No broadcast spectacle, no penned missive on a respected publication. Instead, he announced it via a simple press release issued by his agent.
For the record, James noted that he did take his time choosing between such notables as the Sixers and Rockets (along with, of course, the Cavaliers) before latching on to the Lakers. “I definitely thought long and hard about the possibilities of lining up alongside Ben [Simmons] and [Joel] Embiid, or lining up alongside [James] Harden and Chris [Paul],” he told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. That said, he disclosed that, at this point in his career, “I like the challenge of being able to help a team get to some place they haven’t been in quite a while.”
Of course, it helps that the Lakers have a brand that transcends hoops, and that it’s situated in the entertainment capital of the world. As James pointed out, “it matches up there with all the greats. You can look at the Cowboys, and you can look at the Patriots, you can look at Manchester United, the Boston Celtics. These are historical franchises and for me to be a part of that, I think it’s a great moment for not only me but for my family and for the history of basketball in general.”
Still, the bottom line is clear: James knows he faces a battle unlike any he has seen since being drafted first overall in 2003, and he’s prepared to ride out the inevitably tough early going. “There’s gonna be times, being a young group playing together, where guys are gonna question what’s goin’ on. And that’s just human nature. I understand that. But I’ve always been a part of it. I know a lot about the ups and downs of a season. And one thing we can’t do is lose focus on what the main goal is, and the main goal is to continue to be as great as we can be every day.” In other words, he knows he won’t be competing for the hardware soon, but remains committed to the work required so that he will be again.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.