Much can be said about LeBron James and his historically great NBA career. He has 4 NBA titles with 4 Finals MVPs, among other accolades including 4 MVP Awards and a whopping 16 All-Star Selections. In terms of longevity and sustained greatness, perhaps LeBron James might be the greatest player to have ever lived. No player has played this well for this long.
But critics often point to the fact that LeBron James switched teams on multiple occasions to have the best squad to win championships. He left Cleveland to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, only to return to Cleveland when they had Kyrie Irving and later Kevin Love. LeBron’s most recent move to the Los Angeles Lakers resulted in the team acquiring Anthony Davis, the best big man in the game.
Clearly, LeBron James has had excellent teammates over his career and that leads to the question: how many NBA titles would LeBron have won if he stayed in Cleveland?
The Ultimate Mercenary?
LeBron James is an all-time great player, on and off the court. He is also the man to single-handedly change the narrative of NBA players, taking them out of the “employee” role to that of an “employer” of their careers. It was LeBron James that broke the stigma that a player has to stay with his original team forever, and that loyalty was the attribute of all NBA superstars. LeBron made it known that the Cleveland front office was not getting him the right talent that could result in an NBA title, and that was shown in the 2007 NBA Finals where Cleveland got swept 4-0 by the San Antonio Spurs.
Cleveland tried to recruit talent with the likes of Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O’Neal, and Ben Wallace among others. But Cleveland lacked a second star and LeBron bolted to Miami in Free Agency to create a Superteam with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. With that much talent on his team, LeBron was expected to make the Finals every year with the Heat. And that’s what he did, making the Finals 4 times and winning 2. Perhaps LeBron should have won more, but he got 2 and then returned to Cleveland once Wade started looking old and Kyrie Irving began budding as a superstar in Cleveland.
LeBron managed to win a title in Cleveland alongside Irving and Love, then bolted to the Los Angeles Lakers once Irving was traded and the championship team fell apart. This move resulted in his 4th NBA title when LA acquired superstar Anthony Davis. Clearly, LeBron James is more of a mercenary than any NBA superstar we can think of. He was the undisputed best player on every team he was on and the much deserved Finals MVP for every title he won, but he made sure he has the best talent around him every single time. While he has 4 championships by moving around so much, it begs the question of how many he would have won if he stayed the course in Cleveland?
LeBron James Would Be A 2-Time NBA Champion If He Stayed In Cleveland
If LeBron James stayed with the Cavaliers his whole career, he would have had 2 NBA championships at least. The reason is simple: Free Agency. Management would have continued to add names to LeBron’s roster and improved his chances are winning it all. After all, LeBron is the biggest star in Cleveland’s history. In fact, Cleveland might never experience any athlete as powerful or influential as LeBron James. That fact alone would have put intense pressure on ownership and management to surround James with the best talent.
It is important to remember that LeBron James would not have played with either Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love, as he would have probably led the Cavaliers to one of the top seeds in the East. The Cavs were able to draft Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins (who later became Kevin Love) because of their low seeding with a lack of talent. With LeBron, the Cavs would be playoff contenders and the team would have to acquire stars via trade or Free Agency.
LeBron James is a beast and can make any NBA team a Finals contender every year. He affects the game in every way possible and makes everyone around him better. That means LeBron needs the type of players that fit his playing style, such as spot-up shooters and active bigs to help around the rim. These guys can be found via trade or Free Agency, where teams every year add these types of players. Especially as the years went by, LeBron would have played with some of the guys we see in today’s NBA who are tremendous shooters and athletes. If LeBron stayed the course, he would have had excellent role players helping him in Cleveland.
But LeBron needs a scoring superstar and closer to help him as well. This is evident because LeBron needed Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving to close games for him, while Anthony Davis led the Lakers in scoring. Would Cleveland have been able to find a scorer? Without question, the Cavaliers would have managed to find the talent in the Free Agency market. Star players are moving every single year, and everybody loves to play with LeBron. It is very reasonable that stars with the skillsets of Paul George or C.J. McCollum, shooters and scorers, would have liked to join forces with LeBron in Cleveland because of his unselfishness on the court. Not to mention, LeBron has some very powerful best friends in the NBA such as Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony who just might have been interested.
Considering LeBron James and his greatness on the court, he would have managed at least 2 rings with Cleveland. It would have been harder, longer, and certainly more tiring; but perhaps LeBron’s 2 rings with Cleveland might mean more than his 4 rings with 3 Superteams.