By , Dieter Kurtenbach
Published June 21, 2016
He did it.
He delivered what he promised.
He defeated the Cleveland Curse.
And now, if he so pleases, LeBron James should be allowed to move on.
There is only one way LeBron can leave Cleveland a second time -- on top. The pain of a second abandonment would be dulled by the eradication of five decades of heartache -- we'd call it a wash, an amicable divorce.
LeBron could then go and fulfill his dream of forming a super team with his 30-plus friends in Miami, Los Angeles, New York or even a random city like Memphis before fielding such a team would become too sad to watch.
The fact is that LeBron would have to go elsewhere to achieve that superteam dream because he'd be hard-pressed to bring Carmelo Antony, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade to Cleveland.
That has nothing to do with The Land -- it has to do with the Cavs' salary cap situation. The Cavs will likely be the only team this offseason without the ability to sign an impact free agent despite the projected $24 million one-year increase in the salary cap.
Which brings up the second conundrum for LeBron -- the Cavs' best hope of improving its roster this offseason rides on the return they would get in a trade for Kevin Love or Iman Shumpert -- but if LeBron's goal is to win more titles, there's no better place to be than Cleveland, because as long as he's on the Cavs' roster, Cleveland is the perennial favorite in the Eastern Conference, and that's half the battle.
Yet we all saw the amount of effort it took for LeBron to win this year's title. It took everything he had and more to carry his team from the brink to the top. Even the most ardent competitor wouldn't dare to sign up for that challenge every year -- it's far too physically and emotionally taxing.
It'd be easy for LeBron to leave. All he'd have to do is decline his player option and he could hit the most active and engaged free-agency market the NBA has likely ever seen. The Cavs would be devastated, of course, but they'd have newfound cap space and an excellent young core of Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson to build around. He wouldn't leave Cleveland in shambles, like last time.
That said, it's so hard to imagine LeBron leaving a second time -- it took the greatest accomplishment of his career, arguably the greatest three-game stretch (considering the circumstances) in NBA history to wash away the vitriol that lingered from the first time he left, and even then, many still stubbornly refuse to forgive him (as if it was a direct insult to them.) Would he risk being the NBA's most hated man again?
But it's also nearly impossible to imagine the closest thing to an immortal athlete we've seen this millennium not being a near superhuman force. Should LeBron not leave now and begin the final stage of his career before decline inevitably sets in, his final years could be rather depressing -- a modern version of the regrettable Jordan-on-the-Wizards era.
Ultimately, it's his decision, again, and whatever he chooses should come with an air of infallibility after that NBA Finals performance. And anyone who is saying they have a read on him, who knows what he's going to do -- stay or go -- is lying. It'd be hard to believe LeBron has given the topic much consideration.
What do you do when you've achieved your lifelong goal? How can you follow up doing the impossible? What comes after that?
In all likelihood, more of the same. Remaining in Cleveland has to be the odds-on favorite option -- how do you leave a title-winning team that will return almost all of its key players? How do you leave your hometown again?
But if LeBron plans on leaving Cleveland once more before his career is done, there's no time like the present.