Over a wild week of free agency we learned a lot. We learned that a large group of media members do not understand how revenue sharing works. We learned that the Lakers are as irrelevant as they have been in NBA history, and the Celtics are on the path back to legitimacy. And of course, we learned a ton about Kevin Durant. However, what I learned most is that as quiet as LeBron James has been this off-season, the entire league continues to revolve around him year round, and while the Warriors won on paper, LeBron James is still the winner of the off-season.
Let’s get it straight, James is why Durant left the Thunder. You can use the old “if you can’t beat them join them” shtick, but let’s get real Durant has only had to chase the Warriors for one season. He has been chasing James his entire career. You can point to the Oklahoma market, their inability to retain James Harden, the collapse in the playoffs, Durant left because he did not think he could beat LeBron James with the Thunder.
He knew that as hard as that Warriors’ series was last year, that was only the semi-finals. LeBron James was still waiting afterwards. So if it took everything out of him and more just to get through the Western Conference, how good could he feel that he could not only take that step, but take another giant leap to beat James and the Cavaliers? Durant did not join the enemy, he allied with others who have the same goal.
That takes us to James himself. What a perfect situation to be in. He comes into the regular season as the defending champion and the best player in the world. Still, the mass public has no expectations for him to repeat. He enters the season as a bigger underdog than he did the year before.
As James enters the 2016-17 season, he embarks the definition of a win-win scenario. No matter what happens throughout the season James will be praised. He is the savior of Cleveland, and he did it by knocking off the team with the most wins ever in a comeback that has never been seen before. He is a legend.
If he loses this year to the Warriors in the Finals, everybody saw it coming. Durant needed Curry, they all needed Draymond Green, the narrative writes itself. If he beats the Warriors this year in the Finals, he is the greatest basketball player to ever walk the earth. Seems like a good position to be in.
So while Kevin Durant stressed, and debated and called multiple owners James sat back on his banana boat and chilled. James is the clear winner of the summer in the NBA, and may just continue to be the winner of the NBA for the foreseeable future.