The NBA is officially now the ABL.
As in, Anybody But LeBron.
It’s hard not to look at the recent buyout market and not think that’s where the league is now after a few high profile players decided to join Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets instead of James and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
For sure, many in NBA America were rocked when LaMarcus Aldridge decided to join the juggernaut Nets, who currently have won 18 of their last 21 — mostly without Durant.
It followed Blake Griffin’s arrival after he was bought out of his contract by the Detroit Pistons.
Both big names were linked with possibly going to L.A., but both choose the loaded franchise that has never won anything.
James wound up with a booby prize — center Andre Drummond. For sure, he can rebound. But his game feels prehistoric in today’s NBA.
This wasn’t a fluke or bad luck.
This has been a pattern. You would think that if James was indeed, the Greatest Of All Time — like he has proclaimed himself — that players would flock to him, and get a chance to play with an all-time great.
But it really hasn’t been the case. James has struck out a ton when trying to get other star players to join him during his long career.
He couldn’t get Chris Bosh to come to Cleveland back in 2010 before those two joined Dwyane Wade in Miami via free agency.
The lone prize for James was getting Anthony Davis from New Orleans. But even then, you wonder if it really would have happened if Davis wasn’t a client of Klutch Sports, the agency run by LeBron’s agent and childhood friend Rich Paul.
The transaction appeared to be solid. James helped Paul start his business. Paul helped his friend win his fourth title with the addition of Davis.
On Wednesday, there was a story about James trying to recruit Steph Curry to come to the Lakers.
When it was mentioned by Brian Windhorst on his ESPN podcast, the other people on the podcast laughed out loud, basically telling anyone listening that it was a pipedream and had little to no chance of it happening.
For sure, Curry gains nothing by joining LeBron.
The biggest snub of all came two offseasons ago. James had already stolen Davis from the Pelicans. And the Lakers had another max deal to play with.
James tried to get Kawhi Leonard to bite. For sure, it was a deal most wouldn’t have been able to refuse.
Leonard could have joined LeBron in L.A., essentially his hometown, played at the Staples Center for one of the league’s winningest franchises.
Plus, he would have been on easy street, joining two other greats to form the best Super Team the NBA had seen to date. Without question, that trio would have had a chance to win a title for the next four years.
Instead of playing for the so-called King, Leonard decided to play in L.A., at the Staples Center, but for the league’s court jester — the L.A. Clippers.
Leonard picked a franchise known as a laughingstock with NO championships. Worse, a team that had never even been to the Western Conference finals.
It was telling.
James did damage when he stacked the deck in Miami, when he decided he wanted to buck the idea of winning out over the competition in front of him.
Instead, LeBron didn’t want to beat Wade and Bosh in the East. He simply wanted to join them.
This is AAU basketball in the NBA. At one time, the best two or three players in a city would be on different AAU teams with the hopes of being called the best player in town. Now, all those players gang up and beat teams that simply are no match for them.
Enter 2021. That’s where we are in The Association. Competitive balance is gone. It’s all an arms race. A few teams get to stockpile talent. The rest of the league sits on the sidelines and simply watches.
If players wanted James to win titles and have more than Michael Jordan, they could easily facilitate it.
But it’s clear they don’t want to. Yes, the ABL is alive and well.