Roger Mason, the NBA Players Association VP and for a moment this season, a teammate of LeBron James just dropped a stick of dynamite into the NBA foxhole. In an upcoming interview on Showtime he commented on LeBron James’ willingness to boycott next season if Donald Sterling is still owner of the LA Clippers. UPDATE: Mason updated his comments with a Twitter “my b”, saying that James never talked sitting out.
Nevertheless, we thought for a moment about what would happen if that actually manifested. Two immediate things come to mind. One, if LeBron did this, he would step into the annals of historical greatness in a way few ever have. The best player in the world is going to make a statement by sitting down? WOW. He doesn’t even play for the Clippers, but his good friend Chris Paul does. (Has anyone in pro sports ever taken a bullet like this for a friend? Wouldn’t this be an incredible stand against racism?)
Second, wouldn’t a LeBron threat cause some owners to NOT vote Sterling out? James boycotting would have the same impact that Jordan’s baseball sabbatical did, opening up title shot lanes for players and franchises that have been blocked out by the Heat.
Here’s a list of the people who’d love to see LBJ take a year off.
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He could win a title this year, but if not, by next season the pressure will be on full-blast. With a MVP under his belt, the excuses from this point will be null and void. Westbrook taking bad shots? Who cares? Scott Brooks’ playbook written in crayon? So what. People are going to demand results. As it is people are already asking questions, wondering if he has what it takes. A win without Bron involved might bring up asterisk questions, but so what, Dream got away with it.1 of 6
Whether he stays with the Knicks or ventures off to another team, the stakes won’t change. If Melo wants his legacy to include more than just paragraph after paragraph of chucker details, he’s going to have to round out his resume with a ring. Even just getting to the Finals might be enough to forever change his narrative. As long as James is in the East, that’s not likely to change.2 of 6
If you can think of another player whose reputation would be better served by a title run, you’re a liar. Dwight Howard has hordes of detractors, but they’ll be forced into silence once he hoists a title trophy for the Rockets. He just has to get through the minefield that is the Western Conference. If he does—and granted that’s a plus-sized “if”—he’ll be able to remake his image. Or at least get Shaq and Charles to stop taking shots on him on live TV.3 of 6
The Pacers are on the brink…of what we don’t really know. Poised to be a legit threat to take the East this season, their well-documented struggles are approaching documentary status. He’s only been in the League for a couple of seasons, so there is no “win now” stress for him. However, windows close fast in the NBA. There’s no guarantee Hibbert’s going to be in Indiana going forward. Ditto for David West and Frank Vogel. A year with James in street clothes puts him in the driver’s seat and takes away his biggest obstacle.4 of 6
Some of the city’s fans are still fuming, still rambling on and on about James bolting for Miami. Every playoff game he wins and every Finals MVP he takes is, to them, another spitball in the eyeball. Sports radio shows and newspapers in the Cleveland area won’t be able to discuss anything else if he boycotts. The joy of seeing James out of the NBA will bring light to their grey mundane lives like nothing else. Except, there’s always the risk that LBJ will be hanging out with Johnny Manziel and showing up at Browns games. Can we all just admit how much we’d love to see that happen?5 of 6
Kobe Bean Bryant
Outside of another Mitch Kupchak hustle, the Lakers won’t have a championship-level roster anytime before Kobe retires. His thirst to get a sixth ring will dry him out, one 7-26 game at a time. Still, the idea of a LeBron-less league—and a shot at tying MJ in title count—has to reinvigorate Bryant more than German blood work.6 of 6