Now, he's doing what he wants.
"In 2010, when he went to Miami, it was about championships," agent Rich Paul told Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated. "In 2014, when he went back to Cleveland, it was about delivering on a promise. In 2018, it was just about doing what he wants to do."
James, 33, agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers on July 1 in a move that's curious from a basketball perspective. There were other options (Houston, Philadelphia) with a more immediate championship window, and re-signing in Cleveland would have made the Cavs favorites for a fifth straight Finals appearance.
The Lakers have no clear path to contention and aren't a lock to make the playoffs as currently constituted. Paul George, long rumored to be headed to Los Angeles, re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The San Antonio Spurs are reportedly asking for a king's ransom in trade talks for Kawhi Leonard, making it possible he won't arrive in L.A. until next summer—if ever.
The Lakers' signings since James—Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee—do not inspire confidence. Rondo's effort during the regular season has been sporadic at best for a half-decade, while Stephenson and McGee are renowned for making decisions that might make a certain former MVP throw a body part into a whiteboard.
The Lakers have promising young players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, none of whom are developed enough to handle the championship spotlight.
Perhaps too much has been made of the "lifestyle" of Los Angeles; the Lakers have failed to recruit free agents in recent years. But this decision by LeBron is clearly a lifestyle choice first and a basketball one second.
LeBron won't be satisfied playing for the Western Conference's No. 7 seed, though, so additional moves are coming—whether now or midway through the season, as happened during his first year back in Cleveland. Paul's quote illustrates that, perhaps for the first time, LeBron is doing LeBron and everyone else will have to fall in line.