Here Is Why LeBron James Will Leave Cleveland

NBA players Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James at the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016, in Los Angeles (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
NBA players Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James at the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016, in Los Angeles (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The NBA season is done; the Golden State Warriors are champs. So now comes the speculation that only an NBA offseason can bring. With all the free agents available, it makes sense that NBA teams are looking at their finances to figure out how to form a supergroup. The largest name—hell, the biggest name in all of sports—LeBron James didn’t win the championship, so he may very well be on the move.


Here are all the reasons I 100 percent believe that James won’t be in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform next year.

He Doesn’t Need the Money 

James has more money than God. Hell, his Nike contract alone could take care of a small country’s needs for the rest of that country’s life. The reason money isn’t important to this conversation is that it won’t be James’ motivating factor. While most players are looking to make the most money in their short-lived careers, James doesn’t have to worry about this. What motivates him is legacy.


All of James’ moves—leaving Cleveland and playing in Miami, and even coming back to Cleveland—have been about James securing his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time. He knows there’s a good chance the Golden State Warriors will stay together, despite the outrageous contracts involved, and this Cavaliers team can’t compete.

Cleveland Won’t Land Big Free Agents

Cleveland isn’t a sexy location. It doesn’t offer the kind of nightlife that players look for when deciding where they want to play. The only attraction of playing in Cleveland is playing with James, but I don’t know if that’s enough to land big-name veterans like Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. It’s one thing to play alongside LeBron James, but coming to Cleveland, the house James built, isn’t likely to be something players want to do.

James Won a Championship in Cleveland

In 2010, James was the most hated man in Cleveland after he left the Cavaliers to join forces with friend Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat. It was a plan hatched on a summer vacation. It worked: The pair won back-to-back championships, in 2012 and 2013, and James was riding high. Then the wheels fell off and Bron-Bron opted out of his contract and returned home. He came for one reason and one reason only—to bring a championship to Cleveland—and in 2016 he did just that. His debt to the city has been paid. He owes the fans nothing.


So if LeBron Leaves Cleveland, Where Is He Headed?

I will turn to Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski, who is reporting that the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers may be destinations for James in free agency:

Not only is there no guarantee he’s coming back, I’m not sure there’s an expectation he’s re-signing there. I think they feel, I think within Cleveland and around the league, they feel that he’s very much in play to leave again and likely head out West to one of the two L.A. teams. The Lakers could very well be a target.


Wojnarowski says that Los Angeles would be a prime spot for James, considering his business interests, which include several television shows and movies. It makes sense that the man who is a walking business himself should be close to the environment where these deals are made. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Bron-Bron has a house just 30 minutes from the Staples Center, where both the Lakers and the Clippers play.

So What Does All of This Mean? 

James knows that he needs to form a superteam to compete with the Golden State Warriors. Look for him to try to lure his friends Chris Paul, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to join forces and form NBA Voltron. If he can’t get all of them, then look for him to take some of them.


Also, don’t be surprised if Dwayne Wade is included in James’ plans, but just note that he didn’t take this loss lightly and is currently plotting his next move, as all superheroes do when they’ve been beaten.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.

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Three counterpoints (I don’t view any of these as killshots BTW, just things that add to the other side of the scale):

1. Lebron’s brand cachet from staying in Cleveland is real and has monetary and subjective value. Even if you interpret the super palpable emotions he showed when they finally won it all in the most cynical way, it was his relief that he could finally set aside his “villain” image and reclaim the “hero” archetype he blew up not just by going to Miami, but with the embarrassment that was The Decision.

2. Lebron going out West takes him from having an absolute lock on going to the Finals every single year. Lebron owns the East, and will continue to do so for years to come. In the West, his odds are less than 50/50, given that San Antonio is no slouch either.

3. That leaves a place like the Knicks. The problem there ties in with point #1 a bit, in that instead of being the most prominent cultural figure for an entire region, he’s now competing with every other NYC celebrity. Not only that, but I think Phil Jackson is a huge liability in this department when compared to Cleveland’s management. In addition to turning into something of a “pull up your pants” kind of guy when it comes to the fact that NBA players view the world differently in 2017 than they did in 1996, he’s not going to give Lebron the same kind of control Lebron has in Cleveland. And the Knicks whole ownership and management structure is so self-sabatoging that they might not recognize that.