LeBron James has been referred to as a basketball savant. He has eidetic memory, which is a hyper-version of photographic memory. He thinks about and studies the game constantly, watching old games at his house in the offseason, studying everything he can. He’s not just the most impressive physical player in the history of the game.
He’s also a prolific businessman. He owns part of a Premier League team and he owns a production company for television and film. More importantly, his foundation is one of the most impactful in the history of the sport in terms of community outreach.
When James’ days are over, he can do whatever he wants; he has unlimited financial resources and connections. What he says he wants to do, however, is own a team. James appeared on the Open Run podcast (as part of its partnership with “Uninterrupted,” another venture he’s invested in) and discussed all manner of things, including the prospect of owning his own team. Transcription via ESPN:
“I feel like my brain, as far as the game of basketball, is unique,” James said, appearing on a guest on the “Open Run” podcast, a show that recently partnered with the multimedia platform “Uninterrupted,” a company which James is a stakeholder in.
“I would love to continue to give my knowledge to the game. I would love to be a part of a franchise – if not at the top … My dream is to actually own a team. I don’t need to (be) fully hands on. If I’m fortunate enough to own a team, then I’ll going to hire the best GM and president that I can. But I feel like I got a good eye for not only talent, because we all see a lot of talent, but the things that make the talent. The chemistry, what type of guy he is, his work ethic, his passion, the basketball I.Q. side of things. Because talent only goes so far.”
So there’s some weirdness in this. If James is saying “my basketball brain is unique” then it only makes sense that he would want to involve himself in the process. He mentions the things he understands, like chemistry and work ethic, but those are things he would want to have input on. And once you cross that line, you are officially a “hands-on” owner, which he says he doesn’t “need” to be.
It sounds like much of what James wants is to be like Mark Cuban, only as a former player. It would certainly be an interesting experiment. Michael Jordan was a GM with the Wizards before buying his stake in the then-Charlotte Bobcats, and he was uniformly terrible at it. Meanwhile, James’ track record as a player is flawless, and after helping construct the Cavaliers, they won the title last year. So he knows what he’s talking about, right? After all, it was his call to include J.R. Smith in the Iman Shumpert trade and Smith wound up playing a huge role in helping the Cavs win the championship.
Except that the Cavs underperformed all last year right up until the playoffs, and then were down 3-1. They won because of LeBron James. Often times players want to hire “basketball people,” not trusting outside perspectives, which is understandable. But that can also lead to resistance to changing trends and a stagnation in the kinds of mechanisms used in building a team.
James being an owner would be an incredible story, however, and it’s very likely, given his enormous wealth and how much he loves the game. Most great players, when they walk away, they’re ready for something new. For James, he’ll always be around the game. It’s given him too much, it’s in his blood all the way down to the molecules that likely play pickup in his veins.
James has always been about being the most he could be, never happy to be “just a player.” He’s a global brand, an icon, chasing Jordan for the title of greatest ever. Adding owner and winning an NBA title that way would be just another step in the constant expansion of LeBron James as not just a sports albatross, but one of the greater cultural forces of the 21st century.
Beyond all this, though, can you imagine if a player left his team in free agency to form a super-team?
Courtesy: CBS Sports