NBA Free Agency: LeBron James Can Learn From Failed Star Collaborations
Everyone is anticipating what LeBron’s answer will be tonight at the unveiling of his big free agency decision.
He could choose to stay in Cleveland, chase the ghost of Michael Jordan or unite with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The latter is being floated as a real possibility and has been for some time now.
What could be better than three of the NBA’s biggest stars uniting for one singular cause?
Well, a lot actually. In fact, it is a terrible idea for many reasons.
LeBron will alienate many of his fans by leaving Cleveland. How much could he really accomplish by winning a championship with other superstars? Isn’t that taking the easy road out? What if he doesn’t win?
The last one is a big problem for LeBron. If he can’t win with two other superstars, what does that say about him in the big scheme of things?
If you look back at some similar collaborations, you will see that the odds are against LeBron if he chooses the path through Miami.
Before the 1996-97 season, Charles Barkley was traded to the Houston Rockets, teaming up with Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Rockets had already won a pair of titles in Michael Jordan’s absence, so it seemed possible that adding another Hall of Fame piece could bring them one more, and the first for Barkley.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
The Rockets could not overcome a stronger duo in Karl Malone and John Stockton, on a Jazz team that had better pieces to complement their stars across the board.
The Jazz knocked Houston out of the playoffs in 1997 and 1998.
It shows that teams like the Lakers, with two stars in Kobe and Gasol, and a solid cast of role players coupled with an elite coach can beat a team of three mercenaries and a bunch of no-names.
Los Angeles Lakers
When Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined the Lakers before the 2003-04 season, it was a foregone conclusion the Lakers would take home their fourth title.
They already had Shaq and Kobe, so adding two Hall of Famers as role players seemed like it could only improve their roster.
It seemed like a plan that was bound to work to perfection, but it wasn’t meant to be.
The Lakers ran into a team without superstars in the Finals, and Detroit took home the title in five games.
Detroit was a defensive team that put aside superstars in favor of the bigger picture. A team of LeBron, Wade, Bosh and some scrubs wouldn’t be able to beat a complete team. Teams like the Lakers and Celtics come to mind.
After looking at two recent examples of failure, we should point out that all hope is not lost for LeBron.
When Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce before the 2007-08 season, it had the same hype as the previous two teams. Except, this time it worked.
The Celtics have one title to show for their superstar collaboration. If LeBron and Co. only pull off one title, though, it would probably be seen as a disappointment.
On the flip side, the Celtics showed that if one man goes down (in their case, Garnett in 2009), title hopes go down as well.
You can still compete with one star out, but you can’t win it all. If any of the new three get hurt, they have no way to recover.
Why the Heat Would Not Succeed
Those are just three recent examples that provide fairly good evidence that LeBron will not succeed (I’m sure you can think of others). They do, after all, say history repeats itself.
The one thing that would work in the Heat’s advantage if LeBron came on board is that they are a group of three young stars. Each of those teams had players in the latter stages of their careers.
But their failures would still apply to LeBron and Co.
You need stars to win in the NBA, but you also need a team. With three max salaries, there is no money to add any other competent players. Sure, a few guys might sign on the cheap to win a ring, but will you be able to get a roster full of them? Highly unlikely.
You also have to take into account the chemistry factor.
Sure, these guys played together in the Olympics, but what does that really mean when it comes to a full season in the NBA against top-tier talent?
It can take a while to find a chemistry that can top that of the Lakers and Celtics.
Plus, when it comes to the NBA, you have to consider your legacy. It’s just the way it is. These guys want to be the best ever.
How great can your legacy be if it takes two other superstars for you to win a title? And, what if you don’t?
Just something to consider, LeBron. So where should he go instead?
Better Options for LeBron
The best option for LeBron is to stay in Cleveland and finish the job of bringing a championship to his hometown (as I discussed earlier today).
I also think the Bulls would be a better option. They have more pieces in place with Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.
It would also be interesting to see Boozer reunite with LeBron in Chicago. The two had a good thing going before Boozer chased money to Salt Lake City. Boozer was also still developing before he landed in Utah, so it would give the two a nice opportunity to pick up where they left off.
The nature of those three guys would also fit better alongside a superstar, as opposed to three superstars trying to share one basketball.
It’s questionable whether the Knicks or Nets would be better for LeBron than going to Miami, but I do think it’s debatable. The fact that you can say the Knicks or Nets “might” be a better option than anything says a lot in my opinion.
Both teams have a few pieces in place and the money to build around LeBron. Miami will not have any money left after the Big Three unite. Of course, comparing Wade and Bosh to “pieces” is foolish, but I’m just throwing it out there.
All great players are well-versed in the history of the game, or so they say.
LeBron, it’s time for you to take a second to look back before moving forward.
History (and a lot of other things) says Miami is not a place fit for the King.
LeBron needs to make his own history and not follow the path of Wade and Bosh.