Sunday, July 6, 2014

NBA FREE AGENCY 2014: LEBRON AND HIS LEGACY

By: Connor Glowacki

         Miami Heat forward LeBron James opted out of his contract over a week ago to become a free agent and the sweepstakes has begun for multiple NBA teams to try and claim the league's best player. It's been four years since the free agency of 2010 that led to the infamous 'The Decision' television special and LeBron deciding to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for South Beach. Some things remain the same: Ohio's general hatred for their once beloved star and the continued scrutiny over LeBron James' basketball legacy. Yet it's very different from 2010. LeBron is a two time NBA Champion with a stable organization that has made the NBA Finals for the last four years. Back in 2010, you could easily argue that Los Angeles Lakers' star Kobe Bryant was the best player in the game. Now, Kobe is recovering from a torn achilles and the only player close to James, Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, is still one more star teammate away from seriously competing for an NBA title.

     
courtesy of NBA.com

      LeBron carried the load offensively and defensively for the Heat this year, a team that has the oldest median age of players in the league. Guard Dwanye Wade sat out for a good portion of the regular season and couldn't make it through an entire playoff run due to his bad knees.
Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen couldn't duplicate the magic they had in the 2013 Finals and other players such as Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole were complete non-factors.
      Wade and Bosh will most likely take less money to stay with the Heat so that the team will be able to use remaining cap space to get quality free agents. But LeBron, deservedly so, wants a max contract. Miami won't be able to get the free agents that they want if they resign LeBron to a max deal, which makes this next week very interesting.
      LeBron's agent has reportedly met with the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and even the Cavaliers, to allow the respective teams to throw their 'sales pitch' as to why LeBron should join their team. In Phoenix, LeBron would get his max contract and the team could add another star player due to the number of impressive trade assets they possess. LeBron could join the Rockets and team up with all stars Dwight Howard and James Harden or in Dallas with Dirk Nowitzki.  The Lakers are trying to persuade LeBron to take less money, so they could get both him and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony to play with Kobe, forward Pau Gasol and new rookie Julius Randle. And Cleveland now has point guard Kyrie Irving locked up for a long term deal as well a potential superstar in rookie guard Andrew Wiggins.
         
courtesy of espn.go.com
LeBron has unfairly been compared to NBA legend Michael Jordan throughout his entire career, even though his game is far more comparable to another legend, Magic Johnson. Unlike Jordan, who was a pure scorer, LeBron is a facilitator with incredible passing skills who draws triple coverage when driving towards the basket and then kicks out to a wide open shooter. He makes everybody on his team better because of his presence. Our society has determined that the only way for LeBron to surpass Jordan is for him to win more than 6 rings. LeBron is in WIN NOW mode. Any team he goes to will be an instant contender. Personally, I think LeBron needs to stay in Miami or go back to Cleveland to keep his legacy intact. If he goes to his third NBA team, there is a great chance he will be perceived as merely a 'hired mercenary' who needs to play with other stars to win.
       
         This isn't as big of a decision as 2010 because LeBron now has two titles under his belt. That part of his legacy is intact. Now it's about being measured up against the NBA's all time greats, which is not a bad spot to be in. He and his agent have been much quieter this time around and it is still probable that LeBron will simply sign back with the Heat. But when you get the chance to see the greatest player in his sport make a decision that will ultimately affect the landscape of that league, all you can do is sit back and watch history be made.
   

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