OPINION: Why going to the Lakers was the worst mistake of LeBron James’ career

Dante Centofanti NEW Headshot

Dante Centofanti

God knows the King isn’t perfect. He has made a fair share of mistakes over his 16-year career. Almost all of these mistakes are basketball related, but the truth is that James has had an iconic career that doesn’t get enough credit among basketball historians.

But when LeBron Raymone James became an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018 and signed a four-year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, he made the worst mistake of his career.

Sure, the business reasons for his move were obvious. He would be in Los Angeles, a city where Maverick Carter and Rich Paul — his best friends and business partners — could help him grow his branding on a global scale. LeBron is no stranger to the mentor role on the court, but never like this. He came onto a Lakers roster that was full of young talent, a roster that LeBron needed to inherit and mentor.

The second phase of this plan was that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka would do their jobs and strike gold in the next offseason and bring in two other max-contract superstar players. When you put this all together, it seemed like a fresh new start for the greatest basketball player on the planet.

Now here we are at the last day of January, and weeks away from the All-Star break. The Los Angeles are barely over .500 and would be out of the playoffs if the season ended today. LeBron James after suffering a groin injury on Christmas day has been out for almost a month now, and you see the Lakers just not balanced without him in the lineup. The Lakers were a laughing stock this whole decade after starting it with an NBA title, and you see the correlation clearly without LeBron James in the lineup. They are 7-11 since LeBron’s infamous injury, but it hasn’t been all bad, as both Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram have shown flashes of brilliance in James’ absence.

All of this is exactly what LeBron was trying to escape from. He left Cleveland because he wanted to get away from a franchise with ownership that didn’t make the necessary steps needed to win. Unfortunately for him, it looks like that trend might have followed him to the west coast.

Right now I see Lonzo Ball as inconsistent, Brandon Ingram as underachieving and LeBron surrounded by a group of players on the back-nine of their career who are middling about on one-year contracts. Anthony Davis, who is currently writing a check to the NBA for $50,000 for expressing his feelings, would be a godsend for LeBron.

The thought of having two of the top three players in all-time PER on the same team makes me drool. But the fact of the matter is this: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford laid out the blueprint for dealing with superstars this past summer in their dealings with Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs knew they were dealing a once-in-a-generation player, and in turn demanded a return that was equal Leonard’s talents.

Dell Demps, the general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans, would be silly not to practice this when dealing Davis. If I’m Demps, do I really want to take on an underachieving Brandon Ingram or player shrouded in question marks like Lonzo Ball? Do I really want to deal with the circus that I know LaVar Ball will resurrect now that he’s no longer under the thumb of Magic and LeBron?

The fact of the matter is this; the day of superstars demanding trades and going to the place that they wanted to go while their old team gets next-to-nothing in return are over. LeBron has gotten himself into a disaster. I’m certain he thinks he’ll still get a title during his time in Los Angeles, but that might not be the case. Not only do the Lakers not have a surefire trade assets, but there’s also the fact that the Lakers have a very real chance of striking out this summer in terms of superstar free-agents.

Don’t get me wrong, I want the Lakers to win a championship, with LeBron finally overtaking Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all-time. But when you combine all these unfortunate facts surrounding the Lakers, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

Dante Centofanti is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].