LeBron's Next Contract (Part Trois) or Father Time is Undefeated
Three days later, I'm still mad....
The Greatest Cleveland Football Player in History:
Jim Brown played 9 seasons and brought 1 championship to Cleveland.
He bled Brown and Orange.
The Greatest Cleveland Baseball Player in History:
Bob Feller played 19 seasons and brought 1 championship to Cleveland.
He bled Indian Red and Blue....
Oh wait, look, cleveland.com just posted an article from Doug Lesmerises taking the exact OPPOSITE view than I was about to argue, using the same exact players. Lesmerises' article points out that LeBron has played more GAMES for Cleveland than Jim Brown and Bob Feller combined. Fine, I'm the angry jerk. Let's move forward not using emotion, but using cold hard facts. Not the same statistics as Lesmerises, but facts about the limits of human endurance.
It was April 12, 2013—the Los Angeles Lakers were playing the Golden State Warriors in L.A.’s third-to-last game of the season. With a playoff berth hanging in the balance, Kobe Bryant had played the entire game, despite having hyperextended his left knee early in the third quarter.
Only three minutes in the fourth quarter remained when Bryant made a seemingly routine move, pushing off his left foot in an attempt to drive around the tightly defending Harrison Barnes. At that moment, Bryant felt a pop before crumpling to the ground, and the referee called a foul. Grabbing the back of his left ankle as he grimaced, he knew he had torn his Achilles tendon. - Bleacher Report
Kobe was an Adonis who took meticulous care of his body. Kobe said himself that he wanted to play until age 40 as late as 2012. At age 34 though, he was done. After Kobe welcomed LeBron to the Lakers, I took to the internet to see exactly how old Kobe is, right at this second. He's 39. He did just win an Oscar for the film Dear Basketball, so he's kinda still in the game.
Today LeBron is 33 years old and will be 37 when this contract expires.
Other Laker Greats at 35:
Oh wait, he had been retired for 4 seasons and came back for 1 year at 36.
15 Points 7 Assists 6 Rebounds, per game.
He re-retired after 1 season.
22 Points 3 Assists 8 Rebounds, per game.
14 Points 6 Assists 4 Rebounds, per game.
20 Points 7 Assists 4 Rebounds, per game.
At the end of the year, Jerry West retired from basketball in a contract dispute. He chose to quit playing rather than play for another team. (Ahem, ahem.)
12 Points 2 Assists 10 Rebounds, per game.
In Phoenix. Shaquille was a ring chaser at the end of his career. At 37, he ended up with LeBron's Cavs. Shaq's failure to be any help whatsoever helped expedite James' first decision out of town. I remember Shaq lumbering down the court like he was in quicksand.
24 Points 5 Assists 10 Rebounds, per game.
After the season, Baylor only played 11 more games over his last 2 years.
14 Points 4 Assists 20 Rebounds, per game.
Chamberlin would play until 36 when he signed with the ABA's San Diego San Diego Conquistadors as their player-coach. The Lakers sued the Conquistadors to prevent Chamberlin from playing and won, effectively causing his retirement.
4 Points 1 Assist 4 Rebounds, per game.
Playing for Dallas
Other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, few NBA'ers, let alone Lakers, have held their statistical prowess though their mid 30's without a significant dropoff in production. Magic Johnson is betting money against history.
When Kobe tore his Achilles Tendon, he was playing in his 1,239th (check my math) regular season game of his career. He had played 220 playoff games in his career. After the tear, Kobe Bryant would never play in a playoff game again.
LeBron James just played the 1,143rd game of his career and has actually played MORE playoff games than Kobe did in his career, 239. The Lakers gave James a 4-year, 154 million contract, meaning around 400 or so more games to go on his new contract. At 35, will LeBron James still be averaging-
34 Points 9 Assists 9 Rebounds like he did at 33?
History not only says no, but hell no.
At 37, he will be making $41 million guaranteed.
So today I'm mad, but in 4 years it will be the Lakers fans who are mad that they have an albatross of a contract hanging around their necks. If LeBron stayed in Cleveland, there would always be a percentage of jaded old geezers questioning him (like me), but most of the media would say that LeBron earned that contract as a lifetime achievement award (like Lesmerises), even if he's injured tomorrow and never played in another basketball game in his life. But in Los Angeles, he hasn't done anything for the Lakers. Imagine the venom if LeBron blows out his Achilles at 34 and has a similar downward trajectory in production as Kobe. Saddled with a max contract and no history of Championships with LeBron, the LA fans will not be as kind as the majority of "Northeast Ohio" folk. They will not take too kindly to LeBron's branding priorities.
Magic Johnson is betting on LeBron's good health. If you know LeBron, which Magic does, it's a good bet. If you're a student of basketball history, it's a bad, bad bet.
The clock is now ticking. Loudly.
Which brings us to Kawhi Leonard. He is trying to force a trade to the Lakers from the San Antonio Spurs. Why would Leonard want to go from the Spurs, one of the model franchises in all of North American Sports, to the rebuilding Lakers? One word:
In the past 2 years, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neil have all had movies come out. All 4 talk about branding and having a multi-platform presence.
In San Antonio, all they do is produce great players like David Robinson or Tim Duncan or Tony Parker. That's why when the mysterious case of Kawhi Leonard comes up, inevitably the subject of Kawhi's "team," "group," or "people in his ear" come up. Leonard wants to take his BRAND to the next level. Being a great basketball player like Tim Duncan isn't enough.
In the end, Kawhi will be a free agent next year, if he doesn't force a trade this year, the Spurs get nothing. Kawhi's antics, no matter how they shake out, will inevitably end the Spurs' run of playoff successes. There are so many rumors out there, it's hard to tell what's true or false. I just can't imagine the Lakers coming up with enough for Kawhi in a trade. I still wouldn't rule out Leonard getting traded to the Clippers....or the Knicks.
Editor's Note: This last section is off the record.
As mad as I am, I'm more upset that LeBron is going to end up playing 20 years and Cleveland got 1 Championship.
The Greatest players, known by one name, gave their cities piles of hardware.
Jordan gave Chicago 6.
Brady gave New England 5.
Kobe gave Los Angeles 5.
Even Syd the Kid delivered more Stanley Cups to the Penguins than LeBron did to the Cavs.
So I'm mad because I'm jealous.
But if I'm Dan Gilbert, I'm not mad, I'm beyond furious.
I take a deep breath, enjoy the July 4th Holiday, and then I put the Cavs up for sale.
I ask for $1.5 Billion and let all takers know that I don't give a rat's ass if the team stays in Cleveland. I don't care if Putin himself brings an armored car to the Q and drops off the money in unmarked rubles and says he's changing the name of the team to the Moscow Maulers.
I AM DONE WITH THE NBA. (But I'm a businessman, so I'm taking a giant pile of money to leave.)
Then, again, don't forget I'm Dan Gilbert, I would split my money in half, keep half of it, Scrooge McDuck style and swim through the coins in my money vault. And with the other half, I would take the 3/4 of a billion dollars and buy the Detroit Red Wings.
And I would swear that before I die, I would do everything in my power to make the NHL bigger than the NBA.
Editor's Note II:
Dear Dan Gilbert:
If you have some investment capital, I have a great movie idea that we can make here in Cleveland. It won't be the biggest hit of the summer, but it'll be bigger than "Uncle Drew."