CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 08: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts as he exits the game in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors during Game Four of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

Hartman: LeBron’s lame left coast exit leaves little doubt he never cared about coming home

Noted sellout LeBron James sold out again Sunday, signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in hopes his future failures in the postseason will at least come earlier in the spring. 

More time for making movies, I guess? 

He left his allegedly beloved northeast Ohio* for the second time this decade, choosing to take his talents to some western beach this time. 

*Ok, he really must love the area given the huge investment he has made in education there. There’s not enough praise to heap on him for that, but in regard to sports... 

James obviously learned a little about public relations since he signed with Miami in 2010 because he was sure to make reference to his charitable contributions on his way out the door this time, but I’m still not sure how he can do this to the fans again if he has any affection for them at all.  

The most popular answer is he just dislikes the ownership that much more than he likes the fans. 

I guess that’s fair, but management did bend over backwards for him, including making the ill-advised trade for Kevin Love and opening the checkbook for many expensive pieces since he’s a superstar who apparently can’t win without more help than most have gotten over the years. (Though he still usually doesn’t win.)

James held the organization hostage throughout most of both tenures in Cleveland, inspiring numerous personnel moves that weren’t smart in the long term (if ever), left little question he wouldn’t be able to win if he stayed and positioned others to take the blame. 

That’s some trick, eh? 

That made it easier for his numerous apologists to do their jobs, of course, and it somehow made even Cleveland fans apparently understanding this time. 

I find that rather amazing, but I guess it’s not my place to tell people how to feel. 

(And there’s always the possibility the many ‘Thanks LeBron!’ posts on my Twitter and Facebook feeds could be a case of social media giving a false impression of how the public feels. It wouldn’t be the first time.)

As a fan of the league but no particular team, I’m glad the NBA Finals might have more suspense this season, but I do feel sorry for the high draft picks on the Lakers roster. 

Most if not all of them are about to go from promising young kids to disappointing losers not good enough to help LeBron win consistently. 

That’s what happens when you team up with LeBron, after all, as Chris Bosh and Kevin Love learned in Miami and Cleveland. 

Since LeBron can do no wrong on the court, people tend to focus more on the flaws of his teammates than anyone else. 

Oh well. 

He won’t be there forever anyway… 

Meanwhile, I’d still like to know what might have been if LeBron had never left Cleveland in the first place. 

I get why he felt he needed to go to Miami to win - that he had to win to maximize his legacy - but I thought then and still think it was a miscalculation. 

Taking his talents to South Beach might have made building a winner faster and easier, but it also kicked up the stakes, made losing unacceptable. 

The mercenary move to Miami made winning all that matters when it comes to measuring LeBron’s legacy, and that’s a shame because while he doesn’t always win, there’s so much about his game to appreciate. 

The Decision 2010 was at the very least hasty. 

He’d been in the league seven seasons, but he was only in his mid-20s. 

If a time were to come for him to leave and go somewhere that it was championship or bust, that wasn’t it. 

He wasn’t even done developing yet. 

(Which is also why that Cleveland Plain Dealer cover mocking him for having no rings was stupid.) 

The great irony of LeBron winning with a better supporting cast in Miami was that LeBron was better than he had been in Cleveland, but it wasn’t nearly as cool. 

Going 2-2 in the finals with an average NBA playoff team - like the 2018 Cavaliers - would have been way more impressive than it was with that Heat roster. 

I have few doubts he could have done it, but we’ll never know. 

When he went back to Cleveland, he made it all about coming home, and I was among those who was enamored with that story. 

(Ohio is pretty awesome, after all.) 

Four years later, his exit confirms the major motivation was simply to find the most likely place he could build a winner fast. 

There’s nothing wrong with that other than how shallow and inauthentic it makes him look. 

If the Heat hadn’t been stuck in neutral despite having three future Hall of Famers, he would never have left Miami. 

That much we now know for sure. 

LeBron’s gonna LeBron. 

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