LeBron James Free Agency: LeBron's Lasting Legacy Depends on His Court

Elliott Pohnl@@ElliottPohnl_BRFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2010

CLEVELAND - MAY 11: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on while playing the Boston Celtics in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 11, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. Boston won the game 120-88 to take a 3-2 series lead. 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 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

At first glance, LeBron James appears to be holding the basketball world in his massive hands as July 1, 2010 looms ominously just below the horizon.  A closer look reveals that the ball isn’t actually in LeBron’s court as he ponders his future.

No, it’s not up to Worldwide William Wesley or Maverick Carter.  It’s not up to LeBron’s family circle, his mom, or his girlfriend.

Instead, the destiny of LeBron’s legacy depends on a close comrade yet to be determined and a cast of characters yet to be identified.

Regardless of his incredible individual skill, world-renowned fame, and burgeoning wealth, LeBron won’t be able to succeed on the basketball court without a sidekick and a supporting cast.

Some would argue that success on the court isn’t LeBron’s priority, a dangerous assertion to make without tangible evidence. 

A horrible performance in Game Five of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Celtics provided at least some sort of evidence for Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski and a host of others, who subsequently began attacking LeBron for being a ego-maniacal tyrant concerned about fame and fortune instead of winning.

Lost in the debacle was the poor performance of his teammates and coaching staff, who played with an incredible amount of futility and coached with an alarming level of stupidity.

Amidst all the uncertainty, one thing is crystal clear: Wherever he ends up, LeBron James needs help, and lots of it.

Good help could be hard to find in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers appear to be finally zeroing in on a head coach in the form of Brian Shaw or Byron Scott.

Beyond that encouraging news, the franchise that stupidly gambled on a washed-up 20 million dollar center and took on Antawn Jamison’s two-year, 28 million dollar salary, has a roster in disarray.

Even if LeBron opts to stay home, the Cavaliers will risk being the third or fourth best team in the Eastern Conference.

A glance at the rosters and cap room of the three other possible destinations for LeBron James reveals potential for instant improvement and a long run of dominance.

The Heat have a boatload of cash and could surround Dwayne Wade with Amar’e Stoudemire and a handful of solid role players.  The Bulls are on the cusp of improved success, with or without LeBron.  The Nets already have a decent supporting cast and are a couple of very good players away from being a contender.

In the interest of avoiding an uphill battle alongside a supporting cast that has let him down before, LeBron could decide to go elsewhere.

Joining a young Chicago team is the most popular possibility.

Derrick Rose would provide a dynamic point guard able to find LeBron in transition and get him easier shots in the halfcourt.  Rose also possesses the ability to create his own shot and get to the rim, a luxury LeBron never had in Cleveland.

On paper, adding LeBron would make the Bulls the favorite to win the NBA Title.  It would also produce arguably the worst three-point shooting lineup in modern history.

The lack of a reliable inside presence is something the Bulls have been unable to overcome in recent years.  In Brook Lopez, the Nets have a go-to post scorer, a terrific rebounder, and a dependable defender. 

The Nets’ supporting cast could make life easier for LeBron.  Or, a fragile Devin Harris and an unproven threesome of Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams, and Derrick Favors could fail to develop.

If LeBron is smart, he won’t go anywhere unless he knows he will have plenty of help.

It starts with Chris Bosh.

The Cavaliers would be hard-pressed to add Bosh barring a sign-and-trade deal, a complicated yet somewhat reasonable scenario that could appeal to the Raptors.

The Bulls have plenty of cash to sign both Bosh and LeBron, and the Nets could make a pitch for Bosh depending on a number of factors.

But it doesn’t end there.

LeBron needs to be surrounded by a reliable cast of characters, players willing to take big shots and show up in crunch time.

History is full of unsung heroes that have enhanced the legacies of the greatest to ever play in the NBA, from John Paxson in Chicago to Derek Fisher in Los Angeles.

Without a reliable crew to ride with, LeBron’s legacy will never be complete.  He will unquestionably be remembered as one of the most transcendent athletes to ever play in the NBA, but he won’t be remembered as a winner unless he gets a lot of help.

Until he wins, his every move will be scrutinized.  His actions on and off the court will be trapped under a microscope.

Who will help LeBron lift the weight of the world off his broad shoulders?  That question won’t be answered until long after his free agency comes to a merciful end.