When LeBron James made his decision to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in July, the announcement was met with quite a bit of surprise. There had been a lot of smoke surrounding rumors that James wanted a move to Los Angeles but there was still plenty of skepticism that the best player in the world would leave a perennial Finals contender to join a rebuilding team out west.
As it turns out, LeBron’s decision was something that had been brewing for over a year, even if the details had not been finalized. In an interview with Joe Vardon of The Athletic, the Lakers forward revealed that he began to plan a move out of Cleveland after point guard Kyrie Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics:
“Everyone knows that when Kyrie got traded it was the beginning of the end for everything. It’s not a secret,” James said in an interview with The Athletic.
According to Vardon, Cavs’ GM Koby Altman had assured James that Irving would not be traded shortly before the transaction was made. James feels that he was overruled by Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert, someone James had tolerated in his second tenure in Cleveland despite past issues plaguing their partnership. The Cavaliers have denied that Altman made such a guarantee and claim that James was unwilling to commit to the Cavs long-term even if Kyrie was not traded.
The relationship with James was part of why Irving requested a trade in the first place but LeBron felt the team had too much leverage to adhere to his demands, especially in trading him to a rival. According to Vardon, previous Cavs’ GM David Griffin (whose dismissal was another catalyst in LeBron’s ultimate decision) had wanted to trade Irving for Paul George but did not pull the trigger due to a lack of certainty about his own future.
Ultimately, it was a ton of factors that played into LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland for the second time in his career. Now in his 16th season in the league and about to make his return to Cleveland for the first time as a Laker, he is still thriving while wearing the purple and gold, even without the second star he wanted to keep alongside him on the Cavaliers.