While LeBron James is busy gearing up for another shot at the title as a Laker, all we can do right now is speculate on the “what ifs” of his career. Particularly, it’s always interesting to think about a scenario in which an elite player never jumped ship and stayed the course throughout his career. Here, we examine the possible series of events if he never left Cleveland in the first place.
2011 – No help + Derrick Rose = Postseason exit
This was simply the year of Derrick Rose. While LeBron James won against the Bulls back then with the Heat, it’s important to note that he had the help of Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. However, with the lineup of the Cavaliers back then, James alone simply may not have been enough as the Bulls had the better overall team. Therefore, the Cavaliers would have probably lost the series in 6 games.
2012 – Head start to the LeBron & Kyrie era
What a treat. Yes, the duo would have been assembled much earlier if James never left Cleveland. In addition, the starting lineup would probably be Kyrie Irving, Danny Green, LeBron James, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao. With a likely rematch with the Bulls in the postseason, the Cavaliers would come out on top with a better stacked team. Dumb luck would have been on their side as well with multiple injuries from Rose and Joakim Noah. This would then align themselves against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals too. In this scenario, James Harden would probably still give a poor performance, the Cavaliers have a stronger lineup, and they would eventually win the series in 5 games.
2013 – Going back to back
Still the same. In 2012, no team would have been a threat to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference and they would have easily made it to the NBA Finals once again with LeBron James. This would similarly match them up against the Spurs in the West. As great as the Spurs were that year, keep in mind that Green did amazingly well in the NBA Finals against the Heat. Therefore, if Green came up big time for the Spurs, he could have probably done the same as a Cavalier. He would have definitely tipped the odds in the favor of the Cavaliers and they could have won the title in 6 games.
2014 – Bye Anthony Bennett, hello three-peat
One more in the bag. Coming off a title, the Cavaliers would have avoided drafting one of the biggest busts of all time. In this year, the only threat to the team in the Eastern Conference — had LeBron James remained there — was the Pacers. While it would have been a great match up, the Cavaliers would still probably have the edge in experience and win in 6 or 7 games. This would then set them up for a rematch against the Spurs in the NBA Finals. Notably, Wade was hurt and Bosh was nonexistent when the Heat battled the Spurs originally. Therefore, a theoretical healthy and productive Cavaliers squad with Irving and Green would have been a better boost for James. Looking at it from this perspective, the Cavaliers would have had a realistic shot to win another title in 7 games.
2015 – What comes up, must come down
This was the year James originally came back to Cleveland with the catchy “I’m Coming Home” song. Nevertheless, they would have made it to the NBA Finals yet again. But this time would be different. Not only was this the rise of the Golden State Warriors, but Irving would have still broken his knee in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Eventually, the Cavaliers would lose altogether in Game 6.
Looking back, LeBron James could have experienced more success if only he stayed in Cleveland. He wouldn’t have been hated so much, he would have had a better shot at being deemed as the GOAT, and he would even have more titles. Nevertheless, hindsight is 20/20 and it’s only so easy to look back at what could have been. Overall, James still had a remarkable career with such a compelling story. What’s the best part? It’s not even over yet.