LeBron James‘ free agency was the topic of endless debate for the entire 2017-18 season, as fans, media, and other players all tried to figure out where LeBron would choose for the next chapter of his career.
The reason his free agency was so fascinating, beyond the obvious that any move he makes shifts the balance of power in the league, is that there wasn’t a clear “correct” choice for James on the court. LeBron could’ve joined the Rockets and possibly pushed them past the Warriors, but it would’ve required a sign-and-trade to be worked out (or LeBron taking a ridiculous pay cut). In Philadelphia, James likely could’ve gotten the best combination of money and immediate ability to compete, but it would’ve required uprooting his family somewhere they’ve never been and with a cast of young stars with growing pains still to go.
In Cleveland, it would’ve required him to run it back with the same cast next year and, maybe more importantly, with the same owner. In Los Angeles, he would be joining a young cast of players that haven’t won anything, much like his return to Cleveland, and without the promise of a star addition in his first year. Of course, we all know now that he chose the Lakers, which surprised some given his history of not exactly being the type to want to build something.
However, James apparently sees that building process in L.A. as a challenge that excites him, namely because it’s a chance to etch his name in Lakers history as the star that brought L.A. back to prominence after some very lean years. As James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, it’s that opportunity that brought him to the Lakers.
“I love the challenge of being able to help a team get to some places they haven’t been in quite a while,” James says. “Obviously the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, but the Lakers organization and franchise matches up there with all the greats. For me to be a part of that is a great thing for me, for my family, and for basketball in general.”
LeBron mentioned something similar in his video on Uninterrupted, noting that the timing was perfect to come in and put his mark on the Lakers. It’s fair to wonder if he would’ve joined the squad without them hitting the bottom, and that his return to the Cavs and achieving his goals of bringing a title back to Cleveland might’ve inspired something in LeBron to realize he does indeed enjoy building something.
The task at hand in L.A. is quite difficult, but James is excited for the opportunity and insists that for Year 1 he has no expectations beyond making sure the team improves and learns those “championship habits” he cares so much about.