Imagine this scenario for a minute:
After 50 years of losing and irrelevance, your team finally wins an NBA Championship. As you celebrate with cool champagne on your lips and watch the confetti still fall from the rafters, the feeling of your city finally being a Champion was still fresh on your mind. A feeling of sheer emotion flooded the streets as the entire area flooded with excitement. Finally, you knew what it felt like to be on top of the world.
That scenario, that’s what the entire city of Cleveland was feeling like in June of 2016. That ultimate high, that ultimate achievement they’d waited so long for, was finally theirs. That year, Cleveland was the city of Champions.
But before that? The Cavaliers were scum. Dysfunction and chaos were the rulers of the organization. Never winning a championship, never being competitive in professional sports, was the norm for the city of Cleveland.
Then LeBron James came and changed all that. Even before the “Big Three” days, LeBron took the Cavaliers to levels they had never seen before. Suddenly, this previously dysfunctional franchise was worth playing for, and the city had something to cheer about.
LeBron James was probably the only one who could save that franchise. His willingness to play with others and sheer talent at winning basketball games quickly made him a “model” teammate. Everyone wanted to play with him, every team wanted him to play for them. He was, by all means, the perfect teammate.
On the Heat, he proved that he could maintain his reputation with All-Stars by his side. And when he came back to the Cavs four years later, he proved that he could follow through on a promise to his city.
But now, the same guy saved the Cavaliers could be the same guy who kills it.
When news broke yesterday about Kyrie Irving wanting a trade, nobody was quite sure what to think. After all, Kyrie is in a great situation. On the Cavs, he gets to be a part of a Championship contending team while playing alongside one of the greatest players on the earth. Why would he want to leave?
Well, maybe we should ask LeBron. He controls the organization. He controls who goes in, who goes out, and anything in between. He has the final say in almost any decision the team makes, both on and off the court. Yet for some reason, he’s not publicly doing anything to convince Kyrie to stay. Maybe because he knows he’s part of the reason.
As one of the greatest players to ever play, he is the main focus of everything. As a result, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, as long as they stay with him, will forever be known as LeBron James’ “sidekicks.” They will never be able to lead the team as long as LeBron is there. They will forever be in the shadow of “King James’” ego.
And for a guy as good as Irving, he can do so much more. Why should he be content with playing second fiddle? We’ve all seen what he can do, so why should anyone hold him back?
And Kevin Love? Look at who he was back in Minnesota. He was a literal 25 and 12 guy. Nobody ever doubted his star power when he played for the Timberwolves. But with LeBron, some hardly see him as an All-Star.
Look, LeBron James is not a bad person. He’s not a bad teammate, either. But when you have a guy who’s ego is bigger than the moon, and who demands to be the center of attention wherever he goes, playing with him may not be as fun as everyone thinks.
Even though he deserves all the positive attention he gets, LeBron’s control and spotlight over the entire Cavaliers organization may be a little too much for his star teammates to handle. Playing with him practically eliminates your chances of being the #1 guy. Ultimately, he does put a limit on how big your stardom gets, whether he means to or not.
There’s nothing wrong with what LeBron is doing. He’s the greatest player in the world, he has the rightful spotlight. But it may be time to strip that “perfect teammate” title away from him. Because as we’re seeing, the legacy of “King James” may not be easy to handle.
In the end, it’s pretty much been confirmed that Kyrie no longer wants to play second fiddle to LeBron. In the end, it’s pretty much known that Kevin Love played much better on his own team. “King James” isn’t the bad guy here, and he’s probably not doing any of this on purpose. But LeBron’s super-ego and superstar spotlight could be driving away his most important teammates.
And the Cavaliers are going to be the only ones left to pick up the pieces.