If all of this LeBron James madness feels eerily familiar, it’s because the nearly exact same situation played out in the Lakers favor four years ago. In reality, it was a process that started well before that as murmurs of James departing Cleveland for southern California began before the summer of 2018, mirroring the current reports of James in 2022.
If James does indeed reverse course and leave the Lakers for the Cavaliers in little more than a year’s time, it won’t be a shocking move that was completely unforeseen. And it would follow a pattern laid out years prior as well.
The LeBron-to-Cleveland noise around the league is eerily echoing the pre-2018 rumblings that preceded James’ ultimate free agent dash to Los Angeles. https://t.co/r7Y0ZJOQ0M— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) February 21, 2022
There are some differences between the two situations. Initially, the idea of James leaving a Cavaliers side competing in the Finals annually for a Lakers side so far removed from that level of play felt preposterous. That’s why initial reports felt more like whispers that slowly grew into a full-blown realizations of the likelihood of him coming to Los Angeles.
Perhaps how that situation played out has lent more credence to the current situation and made it seem more believable. There has been no whispering this time around. Part of that could be due to the nature of the situations as well.
As mentioned, those Cavalier teams were perennial title contenders. James was already at or near the summit of the NBA. This Lakers team is not. While they did win a championship in 2020, everything since has been largely bad, some of that through no fault of the team or James’ own doing.
That doesn’t change the hard feelings going around between James and the Lakers front office. The inaction at the recent trade deadline has served as lighter fluid on a simmering flame between the two sides. Fires fueled by lighter fluid flame out quickly but in the moment, the flames roar.
And if you’re looking for more similarities between the two situations, a schism between front office and James fits the bill. In Cleveland, James seemed to put up with owner Dan Gilbert in order to achieve repeated trips to the Finals. The situation in Los Angeles isn’t nearly as dire, but it’s also not nearly as rosy as it felt in the bubble after the Lakers captured banner No. 17.
The through-lines between the two situations are there, and you don’t even have to squint very hard to see them. In each situation, James laying out an exit plan feels as much as preparation from him as it feels like a warning to the current front office. It’s an ultimatum to get things right or James will be gone.
In Cleveland, Gilbert and the team did not get things right enough to appease James and he left to the Lakers. In Los Angeles, the Lakers have a year to get things right or risk facing the same fate.
It’s a very similar story playing out in a very similar way. The Lakers still have time to change the ending this time around and keep the King in L.A, but the clock is ticking.