LeBron James is in the news again. Not that he is ever really absent from conversations about the National Basketball Association. He has long been, and — even at 38, in his 20th year as a professional — continues to be the face of the league. It’s why he’s currently leading the voting for the All-Star Game, and why every single utterance he makes generates buzz, both positive and negative. Sometimes, it’s simply an offshoot of his status. At other times, it’s because he looks for the opportunity to make waves — for one reason or another.
Take, for example, Sam Amick’s article published in The Athletic. The journalist noted James’ desire for the Lakers’ front office to make roster moves that would improve the competitiveness of the purple and gold, as accentuated by the quote, “Y’all know what the f— should be happening.” Never mind the surefire Hall of Famer’s other pronouncements that his focus is on his game and how it impacts what happens in the court.
Certainly, there’s a huge disconnect between what James has repeatedly pointed out, and what he delivered as a parting shot to Amick. On one hand, he says he will do his job, and that he’s ready to work with the teammates he has. On the other, he mutters, practically under his breath, that all and sundry cannot be deaf to the call for the Lakers to pull the trigger on a deal that makes them better immediately — even at the expense of the medium term.
James cannot be blamed for wanting change in the here and now. After all, he’s on the downside of a distinguished career, and far be it for him to see his remaining time in the sport’s grandest stage scraping the bottom of the barrel. He still aims to do battle for the hardware, to put some semblance of meaning to his exertions with the ball in his hands. And although he keeps on rewriting the record books, he’s keen on making the accolades count.
Make no mistake. The Lakers are under no obligation to sacrifice their future for little more than marginal improvements in the present. Then again, they must know the price of having James in the fold. Why is he headlining their cause? For what purpose? The answers clearly align with the need for them to at least put him in position to be relevant for them as he is to the NBA. Else, they’ll be wasting the chance to capitalize on the influence he wields.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.