THE OPTION | It's Time For Lebron to Leave Cleveland

King James only has a few good years left. Why waste them on a team committed to mediocrity?

Aside from Lebron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers look like a collection of IRS agents and mailmen being forced to play basketball.

It's been said at least a few times this season, but it bears repeating: this is a horrible team. As of right now, the Cavs haven't won a playoff game in which Lebron scores less than 32 points. On top of this, Kevin Love – a man who, despite spending ten years in the NBA, still doesn't know how to dribble a basketball – is the only other player on the Cavs' roster averaging double digits this postseason.

The rest of Lebron's supporting cast is similarly disappointing. There's J.R. Smith, a bottomless well of wasted potential and probable alcoholic. There's Kyle Korver, a man in his late seventies. And last but not least, there's Tristan Thompson, a guy more famous for cheating on a Kardashian than playing basketball.

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With virtually no talent around him and a strained relationship with the front office, playing in Cleveland hasn't been all that great for King James in 2018. After putting up 45 points (the Cavs needed every single one of those points) in Cleveland's game seven win over Indianapolis, Lebron said he was "burnt" and that he "just want[ed] to go home" during the postgame press conference.

As Cleveland's favorite son, it might be difficult for Lebron to cut and run for a second time, but the relationship between the Cavaliers and their star forward has become increasingly one-sided. While it's doubtful that the Cavs will make it out of the second round, Lebron has already shown his will to compete. He put up three 40-point games in the series with Indianapolis, and it doesn't seem hyperbolic to suggest that he's willing to absolutely destroy himself in the pursuit of another ring. That said, even though he's one of the best players in NBA history, no one can win a championship all on their own. It's time for Lebron to cut and run.

I know, Michael Jordan didn't leave the Bulls until after his weird, three-year hiatus, but MJ always had teammates. The 90s Bulls were so good that when Jordan decided to play baseball for some reason, they still very nearly made it to the finals. Lebron is currently leading a group of guys with the collective basketball IQ of a middle school JV squad. Even though Cleveland currently has the Brooklyn Nets' lottery pick, it just doesn't make sense for Lebron to stick around. The team isn't getting any younger, faster, or stronger, and neither is he.

In game seven against Indianapolis yesterday, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the ones not named "Lebron" that is, shot 31 percent in the first half. Early on in the game it became apparent that Lebron was going to have to rescue his team once again. He even went so far as to mouth "I'm playing the whole game" to the sideline. Unfortunately he was unable to make good on his promise, and left in the late third quarter with cramps. While he returned in the fourth quarter, he was clearly tired, and had already expended most of his energy.

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Lebron is 33-years-old. He's not young anymore. He doesn't have the stamina to play 48 minutes while simultaneously carrying Tyronn Lue's merry band of misfits. On top of this, he already won Cleveland a championship - possibly the best one of all time. He doesn't owe the city of Cleveland anything. Lebron James is at a point in his career in which his body is starting to fail him. It's not systemic yet, just cramps and twinges, but he's starting to feel the acute sting of growing older and slowly losing his ability play. It won't happen all at once. He'll probably average over 20 points per game into his late thirties, but he will slow down. An era is coming in which Lebron no longer has the strength to completely dominate a basketball game, and no one can blame him for wanting to spend the latter part of his career with a team that knows how play. He's most likely jumping ship at the end of the season, the only question is where King James ends up.


Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found in Inked Magazine, PopDust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. -- Find Matt at his website and on Twitter: @mattclibanoff


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