In probably the biggest Woj bomb of all time, at approximately 8:05pm, it was revealed that LeBron James would sign with the Los Angeles Lakers to the tune of 4 years and $154 million (for those who aren’t mathematicians, that is $38.5 million per year). Just like that, the entire paradigm of the NBA was shifted by a singular press release from James’ company Klutch Sports Group. LeBron was the linchpin for free agency, as a bevy of moves were subsequently made, further changing the landscape of the League.
Due to the many signings that followed LeBron’s Decision pt. III (?), there is a lot to make sense of. Obviously, a number of teams missed out on the King sweepstakes. A lot of people in the NBA were affected by this signing, so this article will help you determine who were the winners and losers throughout the League.
Winners: The Toronto Raptors
You guys remember when the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the one that won 59 games in the regular season, got swept by the far inferior Cavaliers team? The entire country of Canada does. LeBron was the bane of the Raptors’ existence for the past 3 postseasons, getting swept in the 2 playoff matchups against LeBron. Now that the best player in the world is on the other side of the country, the Raptors do not have to worry about getting bullied off the court by an inferior team that is carried by one of the greatest players of all time.
Loser: Lavar Ball
Ever since Lonzo Ball was old enough to dribble, Lavar Ball has had this illusion of control concerning the future of his sons. To be honest, he has seemingly been able to fulfill some of the wild claims that he has made (besides Lonzo winning the Rookie of the Year and his middle son LiAngelo making the Lakers). He even predicted that LeBron would come to the Lakers.
But the presence of LeBron is most likely going to be a negative for Lavar. Early last season, the Ball family patriarch was mouthing off about LeBron and his parenting skills. He has already found himself on the bad side of the now star player of the Lakers. Lavar will most likely be censored by the presence of LeBron because he has the power to get his son traded off the team. LeBron will most likely have a short fuse when it comes to tolerating Lavar. He won’t be able to be his own boisterous self with the King around.
Winners: Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka
A couple days ago, Magic Johnson made the promise to the Lakers fandom that if he did not sign a marquee free agent or make a splash trade in the next two seasons, he would resign as the president of basketball operations for the Lakers. It had been a dry and less than stellar couple of years for the Lakers, with their greatest signing being Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and missing the playoffs in the last 5 years. But Magic Johnson delivered, and in the eyes of the Lakers faithful, he kept his mystical perception and legendary status intact.
Rob Pelinka, on the other hand, is not blessed with the freedom that Magic Johnson is. He surprisingly did not win them multiple championships in the 1980s. His name does not draw the same appeal as the guy that everyone willingly calls MAGIC. He needed this big signing and a number of other deals to help legitimize himself in the eyes of the public.
Loser: Dan Gilbert
On the bright side, he finally has his team back. Somehow finding a way to sound exactly like a hurt boyfriend after a breakup, the Cavaliers owner never seemed to repair his relationship with LeBron after he returned back to the Cavaliers. At least optically, it never appeared like LeBron wanted to even interact with Dan Gilbert except on the occasions that he had to. Now, Gilbert is without the best player in the NBA. It is insane that someone could lose the best player in the NBA, not once, but twice. Without LeBron, the Cavaliers are doomed to peddle in mediocrity, at best being a 30 win team with no real draw besides Colin Sexton, Shaqtin’ A Fool hall of famer J.R. Smith, and Kevin Love. But again, at least Dan Gilbert has his team back.
Loser: Paul George
I do not know if Paul George actually thinks that the Oklahoma City Thunder are actually prepared to compete for a championship. Maybe him resigning back with the Thunder was based off of fear of no other player wanting to go play for the Lakers. But now, he is stuck in Oklahoma (gross), on a team that was eliminated in the first round in the Western Conference. They have coach that does not know how to build an offense around a trio of ball dominant players. Even worse, he still plays in the Western Conference, the far superior conference.
Losers: The rest of the West, besides the Warriors
Here is a stat for you: there are only 7 active MVPs left playing for the NBA. All 7 of them now play in the Western Conference (LeBron, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Steph Curry, Dirk Nowitzki, Derrick Rose). The talent level in the West has risen exponentially in a matter of hours, just by the addition of LeBron. A potential championship contender was created by one signing. Where does that leave the rest of the conference? Fighting for 3rd or 4th place. It is hard enough to compete with the Rockets and the Warriors, and now you have to deal a player who has made it to 8 straight finals. The West is going to become a war zone.
Winners: The Eastern Conference
No more having to face LeBron seems like a really fun prospect doesn’t it. If for 8 straight years, someone came to school and stole your lunch money, then you hear that they moved across the country, you’d be pretty excited too. The road to the NBA Finals no longer has to go through Cleveland. With teams like the Celtics and 76ers full of young talent, it’ll be interesting to see who has the guts to take the mantle in the conference.
Winners: The James Family
With both Bronny and Bryce coming to age in both adolescence and their basketball careers, having a consistent home to grow up and develop in is important. With LeBron signing a 4 year deal, an eternity by modern NBA standards, the James family will be able to grow roots in LA. I also assume that LeBron’s wife would much rather enjoy the sun and relaxation of LA to the cold wasteland that Cleveland is. No dig at Cleveland, but LA is a much more attractive destination than the jewel of Ohio.
Losers: People who complain about the NBA
If you’re someone who thinks that the NBA is boring because there is no real competition, do I have news for you. Everyone knows about the storyline that the Eastern Conference is weaker than the Western Conference. Well now it is going to get even worse, as the only redeeming quality of the East has now jumped ship from the dumpster fire known as the Eastern Seaboard. The Western Conference looks like they stole the talent from all of the players in the East like in Space Jam. The inter-conference matchups will look more like beatdowns than actual games.
Winners: Tyronn Lue and Kevin Love
Can you imagine the pressure that it is working with the greatest player of all time? Ty Lue had to miss time due to the stress that it was causing him to deal with coaching the Cavs. Having to deal with the pressure of LeBron’s legacy and the scrutiny that comes with being the coach of LeBron-led team would drive any coach crazy. With LeBron gone and Lue already securing a ring, he no longer has to worry about dealing with another person’s legacy.
For Kevin Love, he no longer has to worry about playing with LeBron. The criticism that he faced whilst playing with him is gone. He does not have to worry about fitting into LeBron’s system and providing adequate support to him. He does not have the comparison level of the greatest player of all time anymore. It will be more like when he was on the Minnesota Timberwolves. He is control of his media perception: how he is viewed will be based off his play alone, not how it stacks up to other LeBron supporting cast members. He is free to be in control of his own destiny again.