During his first tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James tried and failed to get considerable talent to join him in Northeastern Ohio, leading to his eventual departure for the Miami Heat in 2010.
When James returned, the roster had much more potential for growth, which resulted in a championship in 2016 along with four straight Finals trips. Kyrie Irving had shown potential as a point guard on the rise, and Kevin Love had just come off a career year in Minnesota.
While the team attempted to find stars through trades, LeBron James also attempted to recruit stars to Cleveland on his own. He noted that he faced difficulties getting stars to join him there, difficulties he doesn’t envision in Los Angeles and ones he obviously didn’t have in Miami. Here is a list of the top players James tried to get to play with him during both stints in Cleveland.
In 2010, the Cavs looked to send Zydrunas Ilgauskas and J.J. Hickson to Phoenix in exchange for Suns All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire. Instead, the Cavs moved Ilgauskas for Wizards forward Antawn Jamison prior to the trade deadline, effectively ending those Amar’e conversations.
LeBron James and the Cavs made a pitch to the former Ohio State star to come back to the Buckeye State in 2005, but Redd ultimately chose to stay in Milwaukee on a maximum contract. The Cavs offered a five-year deal worth $60-70 million, while the Bucks could offer up to six years between $80-90 million. While the Bucks never contended for a title, Redd ended up being paid handsomely. They sent a similar recruitment video to Ray Allen.
Paul George almost came to the Cavs through multiple three-team trades including both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. However, these talks fell through and Cavs GM David Griffin did not return after.
One deal would have sent Eric Bledsoe and George to Cleveland, with Irving and Channing Frye to the Suns, and the No. 4 pick to the Pacers. The Suns decided against the trade in order to protect their pick. Other discussions involved George to Cleveland and Love to the Nuggets, with Denver sending Gary Harris and the No. 13 pick (or other pieces) to the Pacers, but Indy backed out.
There were also discussions about a straight-up swap involving Irving and George, but that obviously never came to fruition.
Carmelo Anthony almost joined the Cavs in a deal on draft night that would have brought both him and Paul George to Cleveland, but it got called off at the last second. The Cavs had another opportunity to move Tristan Thompson for Melo after he waived his no-trade clause, but they didn’t want to do it. Anthony wound up going to OKC.
Prime Dwyane Wade
LeBron James recruited a prime D-Wade seven years before their official reunion in Cleveland, but he ultimately decided to stay in Miami. This move, of course, led to LeBron James choosing the Heat over the Cavs in 2010 free agency.
Like Bosh, Wade disliked the prospect of living and playing in Cleveland. Prior to choosing Miami, he contemplated joining James in Chicago.
Along with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh also hit free agency as a member of the draft class of 2003. Posting All-Star-caliber numbers on a less than impressive Raptors team did not satisfy Bosh. Rumors sprouted around the league that Bosh could be dealt to the Cavs for a trade package involving multiple picks and players such as Anderson Varejao, J.J. Hickson and Delonte West. He wanted to go to Chicago, Miami or New Jersey.
He also looked in free agency for a new team that offered him a chance at title contention. Among those teams briefly considered were the Cavs. The “Big 3” discussed Cleveland as a possible option, but only because of LeBron James. They all three ultimately decided against playing for Dan Gilbert in the cold winters of the city, instead opting for the flashier city with an organization that had won an NBA title before.