NBA Free Agency: Loyalty or Legacy...What LeBron James' Decision Means

bryan richardsonContributor IJune 29, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 07:  LeBron James #23 takes a breather against the Boston Celtics in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at TD Banknorth Garden on May 7, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Since first hearing about LeBron James back while he was in high-school, one of the first things that many of the experts and fans alike raved about was James's loyalty and maturation.

Many said he had wisdom beyond his years, and carried himself like he had spent as much time studying the media savvy off the court of guys like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson as he did studying their games on it.

James was the hometown kid, growing up in nearby Akron and had a very tight-knit set of friends and confidants who he trusted with both his personal and professional business.

Drafted by the Cavaliers in 2003, James was expected to bring the Cavaliers, and more importantly the city of Cleveland, a championship and erase all of the gloom and doom that had followed this city for the past four plus decades sports wise.

Things got off to a somewhat slow start, with the Cavs missing the playoffs the first two seasons meanwhile fellow draft mates Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade were helping lead their teams into the promise land.

Then in 2006, the moment finally came. James, in his first ever playoff game, recorded a triple-double in route to a first round win over the Wizards before eventually bowing out to the Pistons in seven games in the second round.

The next year, the Cavs shocked the world as LeBron and the Cavs made it all the way to the NBA Finals before being swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Still, it seemed things were finally going to go the Cavs way.

The rest is history. After losing to Boston's Big 3 in 08', the Cavs, after back-to-back years of having the league's best record and home-court throughout the playoffs, failed to make it to the NBA Finals.

James, after what has been seven solid, but ultimately unfruitful years in Cleveland, must now decide what is most important to him.

The Cavs, in ultimate panic mode the past two years after failing to acquire a true superstar sidekick for LeBron, are now littered with overpaid players and no real way to improve.

On paper, the answer should be simple. When comparing the Cavs roster to that of other potential sutiors like the Bulls (Rose, Deng, Noah, Bosh?) and Heat (D-Wade, Bosh?), LeBron should get out of town and never look back.

But does James, who has on multiple occasions stated that he wants to be a billionaire athlete, want to risk the chance of being the most hated man in his home state, and more importantly, the city of Akron to whom he has an unfledgling love for?

James could return to Cleveland, but with him heading into year eight and still ringless, would that speak more to where his true passion lies?

James needs to win titles, and that needs to happen now. While leaving would undoubtedly vilify him in NE Ohio and beyond, it would give him the opportunity to play with a solid supporting cast and a real chance at winning it all.

With Chris Bosh, who has been linked to every possible destination to play with James, saying that he would not be willing to do a sign-and-trade to join James in Cleveland, that should be an eye opener there.

Bosh is an outsider, and he can look at the situation from afar and see a team that has no coach, no GM, and no real star players while LeBron may be too caught up in the Akron loves LeBron parades and gimmicks.

Ultimately, LeBron's decision will shape the landscape of the NBA one way or another. By returning to the Cavs, LeBron basically states that he cares more about his image than winning, and that he believes that he can win on his own.

Leaving means he is forever tarnished in his home state, yet for the first time can pick a situation that can best help him achieve his on the court goals, which should be his primary focus.

He's asked for this day, and now the time is almost here. Now the question becomes loyalty or legacy, because while being liked is nice, Kings are meant to be revered.