Spoiler alert: The answer is
Allen Iverson yes.
Will they be a success? That is the real question.
I am sure over the course of the NBA season, there will be a lot of Laker and LeBron coverage on this website. We have quite a few Laker fans who write here, however I am not one of them, I just love watching interesting basketball. I have watched some truly incredible performances (IU vs Kentucky, Melo scoring 62 at the Garden) and some genuinely horrific (I once watched my sister’s team lose 4-0 when she was in 5th grade), but the fact remains, if it is interesting basketball, I will watch.
Wednesday night, I watched Laker LeBron take the floor for the first time. I hadn’t watched any Laker highlights to this point and figured a pre-season game against the Warriors was as good a time as any to see LeBron play without the regular moderate intensity of the regular season or the heightened intensity of the playoffs. His 18 minutes were creative, entertaining and a genuinely impressive start to what I believe will be the most interesting portion of LeBron’s career.
It was without a doubt weird to see LeBron take the court in a Lakers jersey. It is the equivalent of seeing one of the weird jersey photoshops on Instagram come to life and despite the fluidity of player movement in today’s sports world, something I did not expect I’d ever see. The Lakers are one of the two greatest franchises in the history of basketball and added one of the two greatest players in the history of basketball, yet there is something that seems awkward about it. I don’t know how we as basketball fans will be able to judge these four Laker LeBron years as successful.
If you are to look at the last 8 years of LeBron’s career, four in Miami and four in Cleveland, you will find 8 Finals appearances, 3 Finals victories, 3 Finals MVPs, 2 MVPs, 8 First Team All NBAs and so much more. Yes, it is year 16 of his career, but in year 15, he played 82 games and had arguably his most productive, efficient and impressive season to date. Logic would lead you to believe continuing on at this pace, particularly the Finals appearances is borderline impossible, so assuming that holds true, what would make Laker LeBron good?
Given the current landscape of the NBA and in particular, the Western Conference, there is not an easy path to the Finals for LeBron this year, especially given the Lakers roster as compared the rest of the league. One would assume that he is not the favorite to make the Finals this year, leaving three years of season 17, 18 and 19 for an aging LeBron to make it. To any other franchise, one Finals appearance in four years is a great success (as a Knicks fan, I don’t think I could mentally handle it), but for the Lakers and LeBron, it seems relatively underwhelming.
The Laker legacy is also an interesting factor in this whole equation. Will LeBron be the greatest Laker ever? Will he even be top 5? Magic, Kobe, Shaq, Wilt, Jerry, Elgin, and Kareem would all probably say no. Will LeBron be the greatest player to ever play for the Lakers? The answer, in my opinion, is yes. For LeBron to come anywhere close to any of those guys in terms of a successful Laker, you are looking at multiple championships or an MVP award in the smallest time frame out of all of them.
But what does LeBron really need to even prove at this point to not only the Lakers but basketball fans in general? Everyone who is pro-Jordan as the GOAT will immediately throw out LeBron’s Finals record as the one deciding stat and to some extent, I do get that. LeBron has already accomplished so much and as he adds on more time/stats to his career, will come close to if not attain many of the NBA’s individual records. I don’t know how much more he really can achieve that moves the needle to make a difference on how people view his career. If he wanted to win more titles for the sake of wining titles, there were plenty of other teams he could have joined like Golden State, Houston and Boston. This move clearly has a heavy focus on life after basketball, planting roots in L.A. and just taking anything that comes as a Laker as a bonus.
To wrap up, I don’t think I have ever been more interested in seeing what LeBron does than I am now. Will he be good? Obviously he’ll be good, he’s always been good. Will it be a success? Miami LeBron wanted titles and that’s what he got. Cleveland LeBron round two wanted a title and that’s what he got.
Los Angeles LeBron wants to be a success and with history as evidence, that’s what he will get.