The No. 1 team in the NBA – led by the man that many deem the top player in the league – has, again, fallen short of their goal to win a championship. The Cleveland Cavaliers may have won an impressive 60-plus games during the regular season, but after losing the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Boston Celtics, many critics believe Cavs superstar LeBron James should leave his home state of Ohio and venture off to another franchise if he wishes to finally win a title.
?Read below as AFRO sports writers Stephen D. Riley and Perry Green debate whether or not “King James” should give up on Cleveland.
Riley: Save the sob stories and city allegiance, it's time for LeBron to bounce. He's given Cleveland seven of the city's arguably best years in its basketball history. You look at Cleveland's roster up and down and you see a bunch of guys who can't finish layups, convert open threes or make clutch baskets on a regular basis and when it counts in the playoffs. The Cavs' second and third best players –Anderson Varejao and Delonte West– wouldn’t start for any of the remaining playoff teams and let's not get started on Cavs head coach Mike Brown.
Green: There's no reason LeBron should leave Cleveland. The legacy of King James is and always will be tied to his home state. The greatest of the greats in NBA history didn't leave town to win their championships, and I don't think LeBron wants to leave either. It all comes down to how he wants to be remembered. Will LeBron's legacy mimic the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, or will his career reflect less greats like Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal? All four players are Hall-of-Fame-worthy (as James is already) but MJ and Kobe are argued as the greatest of all time (GOAT), while Garnett and O'Neal are merely mentioned among the best.
Riley: O'Neal and Garnett's accomplishments aren't frowned upon because they left town to win elsewhere but because big men hardly get any love around NBA circles. It's the guards that garner the titles of the NBA's best ever because they're just the more exciting specimens to watch. Do you know how many times Tim Duncan ousted Kobe in the playoffs? Or can you explain why Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Jordan always seem to receive more praise than Bill Russell's 11 titles? But that's beside the point. James leaving Cleveland would probably have an even greater impact on his legacy than if he stays. If he goes to New York or Chicago, he has a chance to revive two historic basketball franchises that haven't won anything in quite some time, especially New York. If he goes to New Jersey (where I think he should) then he would help elevate that team to unforeseen heights, especially once the club moves to Brooklyn in two years. And if he does all of this while Cleveland falls back off the face of the NBA map then it will only prove his worth. The thought of Cleveland even winning 45 games let alone over 60 as they've done in the past two seasons was unheard of before James arrived, and will resume once/if James leaves.
Green: Tim Duncan is considered by most basketball experts as the greatest power forward to ever play the game, and Bill Russell easily takes the crown as the best center to ever play. Why are Duncan and Russell's legacies deemed greater than KG's and Shaq's? Certainly the amount of championships won between Duncan and Russell (15) is the primary determining factor, but let's not ignore how both players won their titles with the same team throughout their careers. I also won't ignore how Garnett's legacy would have been even greater had he brought a championship to his original team, the Minnesota Timberwolves. LeBron should use Garnett as a learning example and make sure his front office doesn't make the same mistakes Minnesota made.
Riley: Duncan and Russell's legacies are deemed greater than KG's and Shaq's because they won more titles, plain and simple, not because they didn't relocate. It didn't take long for San Antonio, Los Angeles and Boston to surround their stars with talent once they got a hold of them. It's taken Cleveland seven years to surround James with Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, Boobie Gibson and a near 40-year-old O'Neal. And the one chance they did have at landing a marquee talent, they balked. Cleveland's front office had a deal on the table in February to land Amar'e Stoudemire but elected to trade for Antawn Jamison because they didn't want to relinquish J.J. Hickson to the Suns. How did that pay off? Hickson totaled nine minutes and zero points in Cleveland's last three playoff games while Jamison netted 14 points of 6-of-20 shooting in the Cavs' last two games. As for Stoudemire, well, he’s been a beast while giving out dunk facials and averaging over 20 a game so far this post season. Get out while you can LeBron, this coaching staff and front office will be the reason why you'll never win in Cleveland.
?Green: I'd be insane to even attempt to argue that the Cavaliers' front office didn't drop the ball on the potential Stoudemire trade. There's no doubt the presence of a star talent such as Stoudemire would have made a greater difference in the Cavs' success this postseason. Instead, LeBron had to rely on a 33-year-old former All-Star past his prime in Antawn Jamison who can't defend the elite big men of the NBA and struggled on offense throughout most of the semifinals against Boston. But even with that said, part of the reason Mike and Kobe are thought of as GOATs is because they stayed with one team and took that team to multiple championships. LeBron is simply one more star player away from bringing Cleveland an NBA title and the summer of 2010 will be a feeding frenzy for teams looking to sign a high-profile free agent. If I'm LeBron, I’d demand that the Cavs front office make a huge splash this offseason.
Riley: Cleveland is in an impossible position to land a free agent. No free agent is going to want to go to Cleveland without the assurance of James being there and James isn't going to resign without the assurance of a free agent coming aboard. It's not like Cleveland is New York, Chicago or even Los Angeles, where the city is appealing and the market is huge. It’s a similar situation to Garnett in Minnesota—and we all saw how that ended.
Green: All it would take for the Cavs to lure a quality All-Star is to offer that potential contributor the chance to play with the best young talent in the game and help him win a ring. The Lakers solidified Kobe's legacy when they traded for All-Star Pau Gasol in 2007. But in 2006, Kobe and the Lakers were eliminated in the playoffs similarly to how the Cavs were this postseason. If Cavs owner Dan Gilbert knows best, he'll do what the Lakers did and bring LeBron help now. Cleveland may have screwed up on the potential Stoudemire trade, but it’s not too late to right the wrong. Toronto Raptor's All-Star Chris Bosh will be a free agent this offseason, and so will Stoudemire. Both players would be an ideal fit for what the Cavs need to get over the hump.