LeBron Reinvented as a Lakers Legend!
Why LeBron James will have to reinvent himself as a player to win multiple championships and become a Lakers Legend
It’s ridiculous to suggest the greatest player on the planet needs to reinvent himself as a player if he wants to elevate the Los Angeles Lakers to legitimate championship contenders but that’s the reality LeBron James has embraced.
LeBron not only agreed to join a 35-win Lakers team that missed the playoffs for five straight years but also voluntarily signed a four-year contract instead of the usual one-plus-one deals he demanded from the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron did this fully knowing the plan was for him to dramatically reinvent his game to fit with the pace-and-space, switch-everything style of basketball Luke Walton has the young Lakers playing rather than the other way around.
Instead of dominating the ball all the time, the Lakers want LeBron to play off the ball and in the post part of the time. While LeBron has never played on a team that was top-ten in pace, the Lakers plan is to play even faster with him. Instead of playing his natural small forward position, the Lakers want LeBron to start at power forward and spend a significant portion of his total minutes playing small ball center, something he did less than 1% of the time last year.
While all this sounds like an extreme makeover, none of it is impossible and much of it would actually benefit the health of a 33-year old, 15-year NBA veteran who’s been forced to carry far too heavy a load the last few years. LeBron is probably the only player in the league who could function as the ultimate wild card, allowing the Lakers to plug LeBron into whatever hole they had in their starting lineup, whether point guard or small ball center.
So what’s behind LeBron’s decision to join the Lakers and reinvent himself? Did he sign with the Lakers as the Clippers’ consultant Jerry West claimed because of family and/or business reasons for wanting to be in Los Angeles?
Or did LeBron finally figure out that the way he’s been playing and had been used was not really working and maybe it was time to rethink his strategy? Without Draymond’s meltdown, LeBron could easily be 0–4 vs. the Warriors. There were signs all season LeBron was looking for something different from the isolation heavy style of the Cavs where everything rode on his shoulders. By choosing the Lakers, LeBron chose to dramatically reinvent himself.
While I’m sure the mogul lure of Hollywood and a father’s chance to watch his son play high school basketball carried weight, there’s little question in my mind that LeBron decided to join the Lakers and reinvent himself as a player solely for basketball reasons. LeBron may be changing his approach but his commitment to winning has not wavered nor his goal in signing with the Lakers, which is simply to beat his nemesis, the Golden State Warriors.
LeBron’s decision to join the Lakers was a savvy investment in his basketball future, an acknowledgment that it was time to set down roots and build a team that could enable him to dethrone the Warriors’ potential dynasty. Teaming up with an owner like Jeanie Buss, front office executives like Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, young head coach like Luke Walton, and a talented young roster like the Lakers was LeBron’s bold and dramatic vote on himself.
LeBron James faces a difficult and daunting challenge to earn his place on a Mount Rushmore of Lakers Legends that includes Hall of Fame greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal.
No franchise has set a higher bar for greatness than the Los Angeles Lakers. Forget rings won with other teams. If LeBron wants to be a Lakers Legend, he’ll need at least to match the three championships Shaquille O’Neal won as a Laker since it’s unlikely the 33-year old, 15-year veteran has enough years left to be able to match the five championships Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, and Kobe ‘Bean’ Bryant won wearing purple and gold.
Three championships as a Laker would not only earn LeBron his rightful place as a Lakers Legend but also give him a total of six championships with the Heat, Cavs, and Lakers, allowing him to surpass Kobe Bryant’s five total championships with the Lakers and pull even with Michael Jordan’s six total championships with the Bulls. Winning three more championships as a Laker would crown LeBron’s great career and solidify his standing as the GOAT.
The unprecedented four-year contract LeBron James signed with the Lakers gives him a clear path towards matching the three championships Shaquille O’Neal won as a Laker, especially if the team’s young players can take their games to the next level and the Lakers are able to sign a second superstar next summer. While the Lakers may need the coming season and summer to put the pieces together, the goal is obviously to win LeBron’s last three years.
In many ways, LeBron has always been about the challenge and that’s exactly why he chose to sign with the Lakers and even to reinvent himself as a player. The doubters say there’s no way he will play center or transform the Lakers into a contender any time soon but I wouldn’t bet against LeBron. He’s found a soul mate and mentor in Magic Johnson to share his campaign to take down the Warriors and restore the Lakers as the dynasty dominating the NBA.