Lebron has been all the talk of the internet for the last month. The rumors have basically covered every possible outcome: the Lakers, the Nuggets, Pittsburgh Steelers, the Minnesota Lynx, hell, even a triple-A minor league baseball team, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs threw their name in the hat. These are all assumed under one underlying theme: the best thing that could happen to any franchise is Lebron James. I’m here to change that thought.
I know what you’re thinking. You saw the title of this article and you instantly thought: “Oh boy, this article will look so stupid in a couple of years. Wherever LeBron goes, he will succeed, as he’s done his entire career.”
Let me preface this with a couple of things:
1) I think LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of all time. What he’s been able to do is basically impossible, both statistically and athletically. This article is in no way to disrespect James’ individual talent.
2) This article is written on the assumption that Lebron won’t win a championship in any realistic situation he ends up. Obviously, whoever lands James will succeed and most likely end up in the finals. However, I honestly don’t think any possible Lebron combination, (yes even Houston), will be able to beat a healthy Warriors. The Warriors are just too talented and unselfish to lose again.
So maybe screenshot this article now if you want to make fun of me in a couple of years but allow me to present my case.
What I mean by the title of this article is that long-term, Lebron James ruins franchises. He has such a demanding and unique play style that his teammates have to change in order to work with him. While many say LeBron makes his teammates better, I disagree.
Take Kevin Love for example. In the 2013 season, the year before he went to Cleveland, Love was averaging 26.1 ppg and 12.5 rpg with Minnesota. He was on his way to becoming one of the best forwards of this generation, but then he was traded to a team with Lebron.
In order for Lebron to be Lebron, he needs the ball. Love played a similar game as Lebron, he ran the offense, he had high usage rates, and he could score from basically anywhere. But when on a team with Lebron, Love didn’t get to decide how he played. James basically forced Love into a role as a spot up shooter and Love, while still efficient, hasn’t been the same since. He’s failed to reach 20 points per game in a season since, and his rebounding numbers are down as well.
This happens with young guys as well. Take Jae Crowder, Jordan Clarkson, and Rodney Hood for example. All solid players before coming to Cleveland, struggled immensely when playing alongside the king. In LA and Utah, Hood and Clarkson combined for 31.4 ppg in 2017-2018, once traded to Cleveland, that number went down to just 23.4. In addition, Crowder immediately played more efficiently once getting traded to Utah.
As icing on the cake, the obvious reason that he’s bad for franchises is that Lebron is ridiculously expensive. Teams will sacrifice their entire young cores for maybe two years of Lebron. For example, if Lebron were to go to Boston, that means the Celtics would have no choice but to let go of guys like Brown and Tatum.
I’m a huge believer in the fact that GMs should sacrifice everything they have for a championship. But what will happen this year is a team will overpay Lebron, their young, talented players will be forced to a new role, and their development will be completely stunted. Lebron realistically won’t sign a long-term deal, so basically, a team will pay for two finals losses, and they end up Lebron-less with a bunch of guys who have no idea how to run a team anymore.
Let’s take a look at the 2014 Miami Heat. After Lebron left in the previous offseason, this team still had two all-stars and potential Hall of Famers, (Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh), along with a blooming Goran Dragic. Yet, somehow, this team failed to reach 40 wins and missed the playoffs. This is the Lebron effect. Even guys like Wade and Bosh relied too heavily on James and forgot how to lead their own teams. There’s really no other explanation for a team with Wade, Bosh and Dragic to miss the playoffs. Regardless of their experience, no player is immune to the Lebron effect. Young guys fail to reach their max potential and the veterans change their style to work with James.
So Lakers, Rockets, Celtics, Spurs, wherever he ends up, fans, have fun. Enjoy your year(s) with the king. Enjoy the dunks, chasedown blocks, cocky post game interviews and buzzer beaters. But most of all, enjoy the finals losses, and the years and years of mediocrity after James leaves. Enjoy seeing all of the potential of your favorite team be thrown out the door and left to die by Mr. James himself. First, it was Miami, then Cleveland, who will go through Lebron withdrawal next?