In the end, LeBron James’ decision about where he would play basketball for the next few years, probably the last years of his outstanding NBA career, had little to do with what the Rockets were about.
Nothing to do with winning championships.
Nothing to do with friendship.
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It was about family, wealth and legacy.
All of which are covered by James playing with the Los Angeles Lakers and being in the Entertainment Capital of the World.
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The family part may be as simple as this: If you are rich kid – and James and his wife have three rich children – Los Angeles is as good as it gets.
Wealth-wise, James’ production company SpringHill Entertainment has already produced film and television projects, and has more in the works. His company Uninterrupted, the digital sports entity, is based in Los Angeles. Not many Hollywood power brokers live in River Oaks and work in downtown Houston.
Legacy has part of the James discussion even before he was anointed as “The Chosen One” on a Sports Illustrated cover when he was just a junior in high school.
The inside headline on the article was “Ahead of His Class: Ohio high school junior LeBron James is so good that he’s already being mentioned as the heir to Air Jordan.”
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Let’s not argue whether James has equaled or passed Jordan as a player. There is no argument that he is the most prominent player in the NBA since Jordan.
His legacy is set. If you’re talking about the best basketball player ever, his name will be mentioned prominently.
Winning more championships could certainly enhance his legacy, but there is so much more to it than that.
I mean, James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA title. The. Cleveland. Cavaliers.
Not only was this title in a city that hadn’t won a sports championship since Jim Brown and the Browns did so in the pre-Super Bowl era of the NFL, it was with a franchise that before James arrived had won a total of FOUR playoff series in its history.
Helping the Rockets win a title wouldn’t hurt his legacy, but putting the Lakers back on the basketball map, which would require going through Golden State, an all-time team with all of its top players in their prime, and the Rockets, would mean more.
Everything is bigger in Texas when it comes to everything else. When it comes to the NBA, everything is bigger with the Lakers.
Now that James is a Laker, six of the eight all-time leading scorers in NBA history has played for the Lakers. And that doesn’t even count the great Elgin Baylor, who was the No. 2 all-time scorer when he retired, or Jerry West, who was No. 3 on the list when he finished.
(Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon and Moses Malone, Nos. 9, 10 and 11 on the list, were former Rockets.)
Not only do the Rockets already have the NBA MVP, but the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in five straight years.
Since the franchise began as the Minneapolis Lakers in 1948-49 season, where it won five of the first six championships it competed for, the Lakers had missed the playoffs two years in a row only once (1975-76).
As for winning basketball, competing for a championship, the degree of difficulty is higher with the Lakers than with any of the four teams that were on James’ lists of finalists.
He chose the more difficult path, so you know it wasn’t about basketball.
It wasn’t about his friendship with Rockets’ guard Chris Paul, and it wasn’t about the City of Houston.
Los Angeles’ pull was just too strong.
As they have done so many times, the Lakers win again.