LeBron James came home to Cleveland, delivering the Cavaliers the title they so desperately craved. You know that story.
In the wake of his hometown heroics, however, the Golden State Warriors built the most dominant team in modern NBA history. That Goliath obliterated LeBron's Cavs — and everything he had built in two short seasons back in Cleveland.
You know that story, too.
Now, LeBron faces the foreboding possibility that the Warriors will roll through him for the foreseeable future. With the Cavaliers cap-strapped, and with general manager David Griffin's contract expiring after this season, Cleveland has little avenue toward the kind of improvement necessary to challenge Golden State.
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LeBron won't add more than one more championship with the Cavaliers — even that would require a titanic sinking by the Warriors in the coming years — not while he's running with Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith.
Cleveland's roster is good enough to win a title in almost any era; in 2017, it's doomed. Golden State's too good, in the same way Bill Russell's Celtics tended to get the better of Wilt Chamberlain.
But there is another path forward, starting with LeBron's free agency in the summer of 2018.
If James decides to stay in Cleveland, he's admitting he's content with his legacy as it stands. He's giving up that ghost-chase he claimed was so important last summer, and that's his prerogative. He's made it clear he has nothing left to prove, after all.
Yet if LeBron has any competitive fire left in him, he needs to start laying the groundwork to leave Cleveland once again — not for Los Angeles but for a sleepy military town deep in the heart of Texas.
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Yes, the San Antonio Spurs can offer LeBron everything he wants, assuming the first free agency domino falls this offseason.
That would be fellow Banana Boat best friend Chris Paul, of course. It doesn't make much sense for the Spurs to gut their roster in order to add CP3 this offseason if that's the only move they plan to make. He'd help alongside Kawhi Leonard, but he wouldn't take San Antonio over the top against the Warriors.
In fact, the Spurs would be better off trying to replicate the success they had in the first three quarters of Game 1 of this year's Western Conference finals — with a team built around defense, the height of LaMarcus Aldridge and a lone superstar in Leonard — than taking a Big Two featuring an aging point guard to war.
If you imagine signing Paul is a precursor to the King, however, all the innuendo starts to make sense.
San Antonio would have all the cap room in the world to sign LeBron to a max deal in that scenario, even after paying Paul. The Spurs then could turn around and give Leonard a massive extension, locking up a Big Three that would rival any the NBA has seen.
Paul, Leonard and LeBron are perfect complements to one another, unlike LeBron's previous superteams that have tried to get overlapping skill sets to dovetail between LeBron and Dwyane Wade or LeBron and Irving.
Throw in a defensive big man, and San Antonio would have a team to take down the Warriors. LeBron would have to be a fool to turn down that opportunity — again, assuming he's still interested in winning rings.
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That might not be the end of the Spurs' shopping spree, however, depending on how much money LeBron would want in San Antonio.
If he's willing to take less than the max, this whole hypothetical gets really interesting. Could San Antonio find a way to convince Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins to come to the Spurs as well, countering Golden State's Big Four with one of their own?
Or, if veterans are willing to take less to join this superteam, the Spurs could have options beyond adding all of the superstar free agents on the market. What about bringing in Brook Lopez to protect the rim and stretch the floor with his improving 3-point stroke, or Zach Randolph to add that "little nasty" Gregg Popovich loves so much? Or maybe bring back Boris Diaw for one last hurrah, because why not?
Even in the "worst-case scenario," where the Spurs have to develop a rookie or a cast-off to protect the rim, LeBron would be better off than he is with the Cavaliers — or do you not trust Popovich to find the missing pieces to fill out his own superteam?
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Speaking of Pop, he's the biggest factor of all.
LeBron hasn't played for a truly elite coach. He hasn't had a Phil Jackson or a Red Auerbach (although Erik Spoeltra was a fine coach in Miami). The closest he's come has been playing for Mike Krzyzewski on Team USA — an experience LeBron raves about to this day.
He's openly expressed a great desire to work for one of the best, though, and joining the Spurs in free agency would be his best chance.
It would be awfully nice to be coached by someone who wouldn't ruin any chance you have of beating the Warriors, after all.
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So how realistic is all this? There are only two things standing in LeBron's way: loyalty and power.
On the latter note, LeBron was one of the key forces behind the CBA's new "super-max" contract and the NBA's choice not to smooth out the increase in the salary cap. Forgoing such a deal after helping create the Warriors' dynasty wouldn't be the greatest look for the King.
Neither would betraying the Cavs once again, one could argue, but a second farewell would differ quite a bit from the first.
LeBron earned the right to pick how his career plays out from here when he fulfilled his promise to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy in northeast Ohio. He's helped lift children to their full potential, another pledge he made to his home when he returned. He has been the superstar the Cavs needed and the man Cleveland thought he could be.
None of that will change if he decides to build another superteam to vanquish Golden State. The sins of "The Decision" have been washed clean and cast in a whole new light by the 2017 Warriors.
LeBron can — and should — leave Cleveland in 2018. And if Chris Paul signs in San Antonio this summer, you'll know what's coming next.