Towards the end of the 2017-2018 NBA season, it became clear that something was missing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James was their saving grace, especially in the postseason. For the first time in his career, James played all 82 regular season games and each game of the Playoffs. After another NBA Finals loss, James made a power move by switching conferences by joining the Los Angeles Lakers on a $154 million/4-year contract.
LeBron moving out to the Western Conference is pivotal for several reasons. For starters, the Western Conference is stacked when compared to the Eastern Conference. LeBron owned the east with both the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and then the Cavs again. His critics claimed the Eastern Conference was an easy route to the Finals, but in all honesty, the other Eastern Conference teams were lacking in competition. This last season saw the emergence of the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics, meaning the Eastern Conference is set for some contested battles now that James is gone.
Another reason why this is significant is that LeBron is the NBA’s league player. He is one of the most popular players in the league and instantly elevates any team he is on to title contenders. The Lakers are one of the most historic franchises in the league, though haven’t amounted to much ever since Kobe Bryant retired. LeBron gives them an opportunity to bounce back to their glory days. They have a young core made up of guys like Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram. This won’t be enough to topple the Golden State Warriors or even the Houston Rockets. All signs point towards the Lakers making another marquee signing, which could either be Kawhi Leonard or DeMarcus Cousins—potentially even both.
The last reason why this move is significant is that it sets up Lakers-Celtics rivalry for a new chapter. Kyrie Irving, James’ former protégé, heads the Celtics now. It seems more than fitting that these teammates-turned-opponents be the faces of the league’s most historic rivalry. NBA fans were tired of seeing the same Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals 4 years in a row and this move guarantees that won’t happen again.
LeBron James will have a tougher road to the NBA Finals this upcoming season. He’ll have to deal with the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors before even making it out of the conference. Although the path may be more difficult, the reward will be that much more satisfying. The Lakers are now favored in the basketball betting lines to win the 2019 NBA Championship. With James in tow, this is a potential reality.