“In The Scope With Joshua M. Hicks” is a weekly column from the Managing Editor of WARR
LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of his era, he has accomplished numerous awards including three NBA championships and Finals Most Valuable Player awards, four regular season MVPs, and a plethora of broken records, with the most intriguing one being James becoming the first 30,000 point, 8,000 rebound and 8,000 assist player in league history.
On the flip side, we also cannot forget eight straight NBA Finals appearances, something that although was legendary, also came with a hefty price of his being on the verge of losing two championships to his arch nemesis Kevin Durant.
After the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss on Wednesday, NBA Hall of Famer and Turner Sports analyst Charles Barkley made a statement about James’ upcoming free agency on NBA TV. “I hope he stays in Cleveland,” Barkley said. “It will be great if he stays in Cleveland. These people love him. “He’s a once in a lifetime player. He started the super team thing so now it’s coming back to bite him in the a**. It’s an awkward situation.” This is a fact that we must not overlook.
In 2010, The Chosen One did the unthinkable leaving his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to create the league’s first player-generated super team with his 2003 draft buddies Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, giving birth to a Wade County dynasty that generated four straight Finals appearances, two titles and elevated its championship pedigree that was started by Wade himself when he brought the Heat its first championship in 2006.
Many people, including me, were not too fond of “The Decision”, but it was a transcending declaration of player autonomy that James made to improve his legacy, validate his status in the league as a champion and ultimately give players freedom to change the way the NBA’s year to year free agency period operates in creating championship teams, even for the second best player in the league.
Ultimately, James elected to go back to Cleveland to join another super team with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love and bring a championship to his hometown, and in the process created a historic championship rivalry against the current young Golden State Warriors dynasty.
But little did James know that he was going to have played a sizable part in creating the dynasty by paving the way for Durant to apply the same player-generated super team concept he used in Miami to win championships and join a dynamic Warriors dynasty to complete the same goals. This concept has come back to haunt James and will possibly stop him from adding two championships to the Cavs Empire.
Drastic differences exist, however, between these two great players and their free agency decisions to create super teams. Back in 2010 James joined a team in Miami with a 47-35 record, a team that could not get past the first round of the playoffs in that year’s playoffs, had one All-Star and finished third in the Southeast Division. Durant joined a legendary 73-9 team after the 2016 season that lost to James’ Cavs the same season they overcame his then-OKC Thunder in the Western Conference Finals after falling behind 3-1. The Warriors also won a title against the Cavs the year before, flaunted three All-Stars and were led by two-time regular season MVP Steph Curry.
But for Durant the move saw him, like James, validate his status as an elite player and cementing his legacy as an NBA champion, leading the movement but putting up league historic offensive stat lines, averaging 34 points, nine rebounds and seven assists on 56 percent shooting and 48 percent shooting from three between his two Finals appearances in a Warriors uniform so far. Last year Durant won his first championship and Finals MVP and is on the verge of possibly accomplishing both achievements again in this year’s Finals.
James started this player-generated super team idea, and Durant followed The King’s footsteps to set up his blueprint for multiple championship opportunities to dethrone the King, something he failed to do in his first Finals go around with the Thunder against James’ first successful championship run.
Durant’s decision became very impactful in the current LeBron era, already on the verge of stopping James from adding two more rings to his legacy and can ultimately halt James’ opportunities to add more if the Warriors dynasty prevails long-term. To eliminate that option, James has to join the wave trend he started once again and leave Cleveland to create another super team to catch the count of six championships that he’ll need to truly put him in conversation with the GOAT in regards to owning any era.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio