To Evolution

Internal decision 3.0: LeBron James follows in the footsteps of legends

    Abdulaziz Sobh
    By Abdulaziz Sobh

    Categories: Recreation and Sports


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    Three days after losing the NBA Finals for the sixth time, LeBron James underwent a root canal treatment. For 72 hours he sat alone in his Ohio mansion, his wife and three children at a tournament outside the city of AAU, flanked only by a chef who prepared meals he could not eat. When he recovered from a root canal, he reflected on another, more painful and obstinate. The Warriors, as always, gave him something to bite.
    In the two weeks after the final, James held three meetings at home with his closest advisers, in which he tried to classify free agent destinations where he could satisfy his family and ultimately save his nemesis. Their conversations focused on the Rockets, the 76ers, the Lakers and the Cavaliers. James instructed his agent, Rich Paul, to investigate these organizations and present his comments when he returned from a vacation in Anguilla.
    James has slowly advanced his last two free agent decisions, but from the moment his private plane landed at the Van Nuys airport in Alabama on Saturday, he was proceeding with unusual urgency. He met with Paul extensively on Saturday and planned communication with the Cavs, Sixers, and Lakers. But he was clearly focused on the new local team. He spoke with Kobe Bryant on the phone and invited Magic Johnson to his home in Brentwood. On Saturday night, Johnson came through the door.
    There was a lot of talk about the Lakers 'quest to acquire Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs or to sign Paul George of the Thunder as a precursor to James' landing. Johnson, whom Jilted had already left, had none in his hand. James explained that he was not in a hurry, even at 33, and he had no problem being the first headliner to cross the door. He wants to build a contender that lasts and believes that the Lakers have the recruiters, the assets and the maximum salary space to do it.
    In Cleveland, James played for Dan Gilbert and in Miami for Pat Riley. He relates to Johnson, the president of the Lakers, on a completely different level. In terms of personality, style of play, community involvement and business aspiration, there may be a single figure in sports like James, and that is Johnson. James's associates could feel that the idea of an association with Johnson captivated him.
    On Sunday morning, James had breakfast with his wife in the courtyard of A Votre Sante in Brentwood. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic candidate for governor of California, stopped at his table and asked where he was going. James was silent. Maria Shriver, the former First Lady of California, also passed and handed her case to the Lakers. There is little doubt that the club's hideout played such an important role in James' thinking as Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. James grew up as a fan of the Cowboys and the Yankees, but he had never dressed for an iconic institution. Although the Rockets and the Sixers are loaded compared to the Lakers, they did not capture the imagination in the same way.
    On Sunday afternoon, James and his wife returned to the Van Nuys airport. They were flying east again, this time to Europe, for a couple's trip. His advisors did not know if he would choose a team before going to Europe or after landing, or even after returning. They prepared an old-fashioned press release on the letterhead of Paul's agency, Klutch Sports Group, but they were not sure if they would distribute it or when they would. James called Paul when he was boarding the private plane. "Call the Lakers," he said. In 1968, Wilt Chamberlain arrived in Los Angeles from Philadelphia. In 1975, it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of Milwaukee. In 1996, it was Shaquille O'Neal, from Orlando. In 2018, it is LeBron James, and what is at stake is no different. In a personal sense, James assumes an amazing risk, moving at a relatively advanced age to a place with astronomical expectations and peculiar pressures. If all goes well, and the Lakers rediscover the glory, he joins the pantheon with Shaq and Kareem. If he does not, and they're still trapped behind Golden State and Houston, what does he look like? Tweets from Kobe? Jabs of LaVar? Diss tracks from 21-year-old mates? In Cleveland, James was exalted for reasons beyond basketball. The experience of L.A. It can remind you more of Miami, where it was winning or not.
    On the other hand, for the best player in the world, perhaps that is always the opportunity: the destination fulfilled or another root channel of June. Someday, in the coming years, James will not be the best player in the world or the greatest attraction of the sport. To win, he will need a decoy other than himself, and this is where Magic and the Lakers come in. Despite all of LA's recent free agent releases, NBA players almost universally recognize that the Lakers are the most attractive destination in the league, as long as they meet a baseline for talent and competition. With Johnson and Rob Pelinka, with Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, they have crossed the threshold.
    By Sunday night, James was in Europe, leaving the party behind. Do not wait for interviews, videos, or explanations prepared for at least a month. Switching teams for the third time and leaving Cleveland for a second is no cause for celebration. He is no closer to the Warriors than three weeks ago, except geographically. He embarks on a new road to the north, following in the footsteps of the legends.