The LeBron Question

I probably should have called this post A LeBron question, because there are really dozens of questions surrounding LeBron James right now: Where will he be playing next year? What is his ceiling? Will he win a title for Cleveland this year? Will he be better than Jordan? Etc.

I, like most people, don’t know the answer to these questions. I pay much less attention to the NBA than I pay to the other two major professional sports leagues. Like most people, I care more about the NBA off-season than its regular season. But right now, on the first day of the NBA postseason, one question about LeBron James stands out:

If he wins the title this year, will that make it more or less likely that he returns to the Cavs next season?

There are two lines of thinking about this, and the first is probably more obvious:

Line of Thinking 1: More likely, of course. If LeBron James wins a title this year, then the main reason not to return to Cleveland—the weak supporting cast and its negative effects on his title chances—won’t seem as big anymore. He will have proven that he can win with this team, so he’ll have no reason not to return. Ohio is still his home state, and if he plays his whole career with the Cavs, then he could become the most famous person from a state that has produced multiple presidents.

Line of Thinking 2: Less likely. If LeBron James wins a title this year, then he will have accomplished all he can accomplish in Cleveland. He will have given the team a title and put up one of the most impressive MVP campaigns in NBA history. He will have peaked as a Cleveland Cavalier. You might say that he still needs to build a dynasty, like Jordan (and Bird, and Magic, etc.), but will winning a title this year really going to convince him that Cleveland is the place to do that? Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison don’t really seem like the best pieces to build a long-term contender around right now, and depending on how things shake up in the off-season, he could end up on a much younger and much deeper team next season.

Like most people, I’m inclined to agree with the first line of thinking, but I think that a strong argument for the second line could be made. After all, if LeBron really does want to move to a bigger market or a better team, then going out on top may actually make it easier to leave Cleveland; it will allow him to think of his time with the Cavs as a success. It’s too bad we’ll have to wait for the NBA Playoffs to end to find out the answer to this question.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Tim on April 21, 2010 at 12:50 AM

    I find the idea that LeBron would return in part because he can go down as the most famous Ohioan ever–one that was promoted by none other than one-time Akron resident, Chuck Klosterman–fascinating. First, for how many states is there a clear “most famous resident ever”? What particularly famous individuals are strongly tied to states? Outside of Bruce Springsteen and New Jersey, I can’t think of anyone.

    You mention that Ohio has produced multiple presidents–a whopping eight in fact. But none of them are particularly memorable (Harrison I, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison II, McKinley, Taft, Harding), and the one who I would argue is the most famous among them (Grant) is probably more famous for what he did before taking office. Even then, it’s possible that LeBron has already passed Ulysses Grant as the state’s most famous resident because, to me, Grant is in no way tied to the state of Ohio. He is remembered as the general of “the North” and as a president in DC. He didn’t live in Ohio after he left for college at 17. Before researching this comment, I would have guessed that Grant was from Ohio, but I wouldn’t have been sure. LeBron, on the other hand, has actively achieved fame because of what he has been able to do in the state of Ohio. And if he leaves that state, well, how is that all that different from Grant leaving?


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