Coping with LeBron James? You, as the reader, may see this as a typo. As a Los Angeles Lakers fan, I do not. I was born in 1990 which means by the time I was 10 years old, the Lakers were ready for primetime. I got to the Lakers win titles, re-build and then win some more. I grew up with Shaq and Kobe, and watched Kobe come into how own and dominate the West.
By the time LeBron James came into the league, the Lakers were building a super team with Karl Malone and Gary Payton. After that team failed to win the NBA Finals, the Lakers would rebuild before making the Finals three years in a row, winning two of them.
The matchup we never got to see in the Finals was LeBron vs. Kobe. LeBron’s teams couldn’t get past the Celtics or Magic during the Lakers three-year run. In 2011 and 2012, the last two Laker teams that could have won something, were knocked out in the second round by the eventual Western Conference champion of that year. In 2013, a last-ditch effort of a super team, the Lakers limped into the playoffs without Kobe and got swept by the Spurs in the first round.
Over the years, I had watched LeBron James play and was immensely impressed, but never cheered for or rooted against him. When he left for Miami, that all changed. I was not a fan of him leaving and have actively rooted against his teams ever since. He is a great talent, easily the greatest basketball player I have seen in action.
The organization has paid the price for winning now from 2007-2013 by not having first round picks from 2009-2013. The only reason they have a first round pick in 2018 is because they were able to get one from Cleveland in the Isaiah Thomas trade for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. who were both picked in the second round.
The team has a nice young core with Lonzo Ball, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram, who are three of the last four first round picks ,and Kyle Kuzma who was received in a trade for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. That said, anyone who pays attention to the NBA Draft knows that very few players drafted end up as All-Stars. Prior to these picks, the Lakers had been drafting well at all.
We are in a new era of player movement. The best players want to win and they do not care about the name on the front of the jersey. That has made for some great off-seasons recently, with Kevin Durant, Paul George, and Kyrie Irving all leaving the franchises that brought them in to the league.
Now, LeBron James is said to be leaving Cleveland and there are a few destinations he may land. Los Angeles has been rumored to be the most likely place for him to play next year. The Lakers have the cap space and could get creative to build a whole new team with another star or two around James as well. I am left stunned. How do I feel about this?
The team has been built through drafting and trading young talent. They could blow it up for the chance to win a championship. This would be in the short-term though. James is 33 and in his 15th season. This is probably a four to five-year ride and then it will be over. We know what will happen to Cleveland when he leaves, it will be bad for a while. I worry about the team long-term planning.
How do I root for James after wanting to see him lose in the playoffs for the last eight years? This has led me to be very conflicted about the prospect of having LeBron James on the team. We would win and probably make the playoffs. Going up against Golden State and Houston has me petrified but I think LA could build a team that could win and compete with them. I just do not know if I will feel the same joy as I did when it was Kobe and Shaq or Kobe and Pau. Shaq and Pau were acquired through free agency or trade, but I felt no ill will towards them prior to them joining the team. I have really wanted to see LeBron James lose. I am not sure how it will be if the Lakers are winning and James is the main reason why we are in a good position.
If history is any indication that by early-to-mid July, the NBA universe will know where LeBron James is going to play basketball next season. "The Decision" and his letter to Cleveland occurred on July 8, 2010 and July 11, 2014, respectively. I do not know how I will react to James putting on the gold and purple, if that is the case. It could take me a month or all season to adjust. The magnifying glass that will be put on the team will be something they have not experience in nearly 20 years, and even then, it was not that bad. Every loss will be scrutinized to a point that the 82-game season could feel like forever. The scrutiny, above all else, is what scares me the most.