CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – While some fans – namely Cavs fans – bemoan the Golden State Warriors’ addition of Kevin Durant last offseason, you won’t hear LeBron James complain about it.
Because he’d do the same thing.
“It’s sports,” James said. “You have an opportunity to sign one of the best players, and you can do it, go ahead and do it. Why not? If I become an owner, I’m going to try to sign everybody.”
Some say it just isn’t fair that a 73-win team a year ago that fell a win shy of back-to-back NBA championships should be able to add the former MVP to the mix, but not James, even though Durant is a big reason why he finds himself in an 0-3 hole and in danger of being swept in The Finals for a second time.
“It’s part of the rules,” James said. “But is it fair? I don’t care. It’s great for our league. Right now, look at our TV ratings, look at the money our league is pouring in. I mean, guys are loving the game, our fans love the game. I mean, who am I to say if it’s fair or not?”
James left the Cavs in 2010 to join the Heat where they built a super team in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that went on to win 4 consecutive Eastern Conference titles and back-to-back NBA championships in 2012-2013 before James decided to return to Cleveland in 2014.
The Cavs, who drafted Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson in 2011, traded the No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota to acquire Kevin Love. James’ return has resulted in 3 conference titles and an NBA championship in 2016.
While some try to draw parallels to James’ moves and Durant’s, the 4-time NBA MVP and 3-time Finals MVP is quick to point out the difference, and to him it’s a big one.
“I don’t think that our careers are the same as far as changing teams,” James said. “Their team was already kind of put together, and you just implement a guy that’s ready to sacrifice, a great talent, a guy that’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. But that team, they knew what they were about.
“He just had to come in and just do what he had to do. And that’s what he been doing. For me, when I left here to go to Miami, we had to build something. We brought in eight or nine guys, and we had to build something. And when I came back here, we built something again.”
Prior to joining the Heat, Miami was a playoff team but not a dominating championship contender. When James returned to Cleveland, the Cavs were a lottery team that went 97-215 in the 4 years he was gone.
Durant simply hopped on the Warriors’ home-grown talent bandwagon after he failed to eliminate them in the 2016 playoffs, despite taking a 3-1 series lead on them with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“The best thing with Golden State’s situation is a lot of their guys are drafted,” James said. “Three of their best players were already drafted, so they were able to hold on to them because they own the Bird rights, if everybody knows the CBA. So they’re able to keep Steph, Klay and Draymond and able to go out and sign someone else like they did this past summer by just getting rid of a couple pieces in Harrison Barnes and not re-signing Barbosa and Bogut and guys from last year’s team. So that allowed them to go do that.
“My case, going to Miami, we had to clear a lot of space because they didn’t have anybody as far as guys that they wanted to keep as far as Bird rights besides U.D. [Udonis Haslem] and D-Wade. They had the opportunity to go get two of us, and they did that in me and Bosh, and then we were able to finagle a way to get Mike Miller because some of us took pay cuts, and got some other guys. We had Rio [Mario Chalmers] because he was drafted.
“But it was a different situation. Totally different. Totally different.”
While everyone marvels over his 7 consecutive trips to The Finals – 8 overall – and 3 rings, James hasn’t had an easy path. He finally got past the Celtics and then the Spurs while with the Heat and pulled off the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history to beat the Warriors last year but Golden State is on the cusp of going 16-0 to beat him for the second time in 3 years.
James hoped to build his own dynasty with the Cavs but the Warriors have changed how realistic that may be.
“I think it’s just part of my calling to just go against teams in the midst of a dynasty,” James said. “This has been the best team in our league the last three years. They won a championship, and last year it was the greatest regular-season team we had played, probably one of the best postseason teams that everybody’s ever seen as well, but we were just able to overcome that. And they’re playing like one of the best teams once again.”