CLOSINGS: View Closings

LeBron James: 'I've defeated the odds'

LeBron James discusses his upbringing and using his platform for social good.

Posted: Jul 3, 2018 4:19 AM
Updated: Jul 3, 2018 4:24 AM

The basketball shoe's back on the other foot.

Back when, L.A. was hot. Cleveland was not. Laker basketball was cool. Cavalier basketball was cadaver-cold.

Then came LeBron James, first in 2003, and then again in 2014.

The switch flipped. Now Cleveland rocked. A place where guys could really play ball and where other guys wanted to play ball. La La Land sucked. A place where Cleveland played against Lonzo Ball and put up with his loudmouthed old man LaVar Ball.

Then came Sunday.

And here goes LeBron James—to LA.

The greatest basketball player in the world (Golden State Warrior objections to this statement welcome) is joining the greatest basketball franchise in history (Boston Celtic objections to this statement welcome), leaving his native Northeast Ohio behind again to pick up the pieces and start all over without him.

"King James," as he has been dubbed, agreed Sunday to a four-year, $153.3-million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he expects to spend the remainder of his career. At 33, James has already completed two tours of duty in his native Northern Ohio, once leaving Cleveland to bask in Miami's capital-H Heat, now again leaving to go west.

Around and around we go.

Did a local legend "betray" his home team? No, because the fact is, LeBron James did not owe Ohio his entire life's work just because he grew up there. He gave of himself body and soul for the fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers, for which they should be eternally grateful and make him always welcome to come for a visit, even with a visiting team. Thanks for the memories, as Bob Hope, once a part-owner of Cleveland's baseball team would have sang.

LeBron James saved one basketball team and is now reviving another one.

This is how it goes in basketball:

Back when the Cavaliers were born, the Lakers were already established in the league. The Lakers won a half-dozen NBA championships during their original years in Minneapolis (thus the team name), and featured a star-studded procession of icons in L.A., including Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and more.

Cleveland's team, on the other hand, was nowhere. In its first season (1970-71), its record was 15-67. In the years to come, a fan would have to traverse a two-lane blacktop to remote Richfield, Ohio, to watch a roster of unknowns play a Cavalier home game.

Meanwhile In L.A., the 1971-72 team was about as good as it gets. L.A.'s record that season was 69-13. Very rare indeed was there an off-year; the organization would produce 16 championships, 11 retired jersey numbers, multiple Hall of Famers and statues of its stars surrounding its arena.

Courtside seats were super-expensive and a status symbol. Visiting teams' players often shot the breeze on the sidelines with actor Jack Nicholson, or could check out other celebrities and supermodels in the second and third rows.

And when a rare downturn occurred, as in 1996, the team's management knew how to correct it. Exploit the advantages of living in L.A., scout out new talent, reboot. L.A. = remakes.

So that summer began with Jerry West, then the Lakers' general manager, persuading the mighty Shaq to leave Orlando and change coasts, signing him as a free agent for a then-gaudy $120 million. And when the Charlotte Hornets drafted a 17-year-old star of tomorrow, one Kobe Bryant, the next thing we knew, West was somehow convincing Charlotte to trade the kid to L.A.

Once upon a time, if you loved a lovable bunch of losers like the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Golden State Warriors, you watched the NBA playoffs without much of a rooting interest. Or maybe you took up that popular chant of "Beat L.A.!" as so many did, sick and tired of the Lakers, Lakers, Lakers, again and again and again.

But then came LeBron James.

Suddenly it was a whole new ballgame. The 21st century provided the hoop world with a whole new set of superheroes. For example, Steph Curry and later Kevin Durant turned the Golden State Warriors into, well, warriors. Teams like theirs needed to stockpile as many superstars as possible in order to cope with whatever team LeBron was currently on, whether it was the Cav cadaver he reanimated or a Miami franchise that was moribund until James decided to move there.

James gave the Florida folks a taste of success and then, his work there done, returned home to Ohio to take care of some unfinished business. Cleveland, its feelings hurt by his departure, forgave James pretty quickly once he gave the Cavs a holy grail of their own. A championship trophy.

By the middle of the current decade, before each NBA Finals, fans coast-to-coast were actually complaining, hilariously: "Oh, no .... not the Cavaliers and Warriors again!"

Whereas, way out West, how the mighty had fallen.

The Lakers weren't the Lakers anymore, any more than Jack Nicholson was Jack Nicholson anymore. They stopped winning championships the way he stopped making movies. Descendants of the dearly departed owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, commenced a family feud for control of the team. Magic Johnson, who played for the Lakers, briefly coached them and bought a piece of them, was asked to restore them to their former glory.

Baby steps began. High draft choices, a result of lousy seasons, provided new names, none of them wonderful. Magic and the Lakers even sought magic by risking a very valuable draft pick on Lonzo Ball, a kid with one year of college under his belt and a father who seemed to believe he knew more about professional basketball than anybody IN professional basketball did. A superstar this kid was not, so the Lakers continued to lose.

But they had one big hope:

LeBron James seemed to be torn between two places, Cleveland and La La Land.

As his contract with Cleveland expired and he became a free agent, the rumors flew. LBJ owned a home in L.A. and wouldn't mind being there full-time. He had given the Cavaliers all he had. He could give the Lakers what he has left.

There would be no pressure to bring a forlorn franchise its first championship. If he could revive the Lakers, great. If not, well, they would appreciate his putting them back on basketball's A-list.

No more a cast of mere supporting players. Now a true, genuine star.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
Rice412836
Kandiyohi408122
Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
Goodhue203228
Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
Waseca139211
Pine13658
Meeker12879
Roseau11964
Hubbard114925
Martin113320
Wabasha10561
Redwood94619
Chippewa8877
Cottonwood8664
Renville86527
Dodge8600
Watonwan8544
Wadena8016
Sibley7934
Rock7779
Aitkin76730
Pipestone72518
Fillmore6990
Houston6984
Yellow Medicine64812
Pennington6478
Kanabec61913
Murray5873
Swift5838
Faribault5612
Pope5391
Clearwater5248
Stevens5103
Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
Lac qui Parle3773
Lincoln3591
Norman3497
Big Stone3182
Mahnomen2964
Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
Traverse1481
Lake of the Woods1001
Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
Fayette103910
Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
Winneshiek97613
Iowa95812
Winnebago93023
Hancock8677
Grundy86311
Louisa86216
Sac8608
Chickasaw8574
Cherokee8484
Allamakee81811
Cass81623
Mitchell7984
Appanoose79312
Humboldt7715
Union7706
Shelby76511
Emmet76424
Guthrie75415
Franklin73921
Jefferson7142
Madison6864
Unassigned6690
Palo Alto6554
Keokuk5997
Howard5599
Pocahontas5584
Greene5250
Osceola5241
Ida48913
Clarke4874
Davis4709
Taylor4653
Montgomery46311
Monroe44412
Adair4418
Monona4352
Worth3630
Fremont3583
Van Buren3585
Lucas3256
Decatur3170
Wayne3007
Audubon2962
Ringgold2112
Adams1702
Rochester
Clear
16° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 16°
Mason City
Clear
11° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 11°
Albert Lea
12° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 11°
Feels Like: 12°
Austin
Clear
12° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 12°
Charles City
Clear
12° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 12°
Feels Like: 12°
Quiet Weather This Week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events