STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

LeBron James: 'I've defeated the odds'

LeBron James discusses his upbringing and using his platform for social good.

Posted: Jul 3, 2018 4:04 AM
Updated: Jul 3, 2018 4:24 AM

The basketball shoe's back on the other foot.

Back when, L.A. was hot. Cleveland was not. Laker basketball was cool. Cavalier basketball was cadaver-cold.

Then came LeBron James, first in 2003, and then again in 2014.

The switch flipped. Now Cleveland rocked. A place where guys could really play ball and where other guys wanted to play ball. La La Land sucked. A place where Cleveland played against Lonzo Ball and put up with his loudmouthed old man LaVar Ball.

Then came Sunday.

And here goes LeBron James—to LA.

The greatest basketball player in the world (Golden State Warrior objections to this statement welcome) is joining the greatest basketball franchise in history (Boston Celtic objections to this statement welcome), leaving his native Northeast Ohio behind again to pick up the pieces and start all over without him.

"King James," as he has been dubbed, agreed Sunday to a four-year, $153.3-million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he expects to spend the remainder of his career. At 33, James has already completed two tours of duty in his native Northern Ohio, once leaving Cleveland to bask in Miami's capital-H Heat, now again leaving to go west.

Around and around we go.

Did a local legend "betray" his home team? No, because the fact is, LeBron James did not owe Ohio his entire life's work just because he grew up there. He gave of himself body and soul for the fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers, for which they should be eternally grateful and make him always welcome to come for a visit, even with a visiting team. Thanks for the memories, as Bob Hope, once a part-owner of Cleveland's baseball team would have sang.

LeBron James saved one basketball team and is now reviving another one.

This is how it goes in basketball:

Back when the Cavaliers were born, the Lakers were already established in the league. The Lakers won a half-dozen NBA championships during their original years in Minneapolis (thus the team name), and featured a star-studded procession of icons in L.A., including Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and more.

Cleveland's team, on the other hand, was nowhere. In its first season (1970-71), its record was 15-67. In the years to come, a fan would have to traverse a two-lane blacktop to remote Richfield, Ohio, to watch a roster of unknowns play a Cavalier home game.

Meanwhile In L.A., the 1971-72 team was about as good as it gets. L.A.'s record that season was 69-13. Very rare indeed was there an off-year; the organization would produce 16 championships, 11 retired jersey numbers, multiple Hall of Famers and statues of its stars surrounding its arena.

Courtside seats were super-expensive and a status symbol. Visiting teams' players often shot the breeze on the sidelines with actor Jack Nicholson, or could check out other celebrities and supermodels in the second and third rows.

And when a rare downturn occurred, as in 1996, the team's management knew how to correct it. Exploit the advantages of living in L.A., scout out new talent, reboot. L.A. = remakes.

So that summer began with Jerry West, then the Lakers' general manager, persuading the mighty Shaq to leave Orlando and change coasts, signing him as a free agent for a then-gaudy $120 million. And when the Charlotte Hornets drafted a 17-year-old star of tomorrow, one Kobe Bryant, the next thing we knew, West was somehow convincing Charlotte to trade the kid to L.A.

Once upon a time, if you loved a lovable bunch of losers like the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Golden State Warriors, you watched the NBA playoffs without much of a rooting interest. Or maybe you took up that popular chant of "Beat L.A.!" as so many did, sick and tired of the Lakers, Lakers, Lakers, again and again and again.

But then came LeBron James.

Suddenly it was a whole new ballgame. The 21st century provided the hoop world with a whole new set of superheroes. For example, Steph Curry and later Kevin Durant turned the Golden State Warriors into, well, warriors. Teams like theirs needed to stockpile as many superstars as possible in order to cope with whatever team LeBron was currently on, whether it was the Cav cadaver he reanimated or a Miami franchise that was moribund until James decided to move there.

James gave the Florida folks a taste of success and then, his work there done, returned home to Ohio to take care of some unfinished business. Cleveland, its feelings hurt by his departure, forgave James pretty quickly once he gave the Cavs a holy grail of their own. A championship trophy.

By the middle of the current decade, before each NBA Finals, fans coast-to-coast were actually complaining, hilariously: "Oh, no .... not the Cavaliers and Warriors again!"

Whereas, way out West, how the mighty had fallen.

The Lakers weren't the Lakers anymore, any more than Jack Nicholson was Jack Nicholson anymore. They stopped winning championships the way he stopped making movies. Descendants of the dearly departed owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, commenced a family feud for control of the team. Magic Johnson, who played for the Lakers, briefly coached them and bought a piece of them, was asked to restore them to their former glory.

Baby steps began. High draft choices, a result of lousy seasons, provided new names, none of them wonderful. Magic and the Lakers even sought magic by risking a very valuable draft pick on Lonzo Ball, a kid with one year of college under his belt and a father who seemed to believe he knew more about professional basketball than anybody IN professional basketball did. A superstar this kid was not, so the Lakers continued to lose.

But they had one big hope:

LeBron James seemed to be torn between two places, Cleveland and La La Land.

As his contract with Cleveland expired and he became a free agent, the rumors flew. LBJ owned a home in L.A. and wouldn't mind being there full-time. He had given the Cavaliers all he had. He could give the Lakers what he has left.

There would be no pressure to bring a forlorn franchise its first championship. If he could revive the Lakers, great. If not, well, they would appreciate his putting them back on basketball's A-list.

No more a cast of mere supporting players. Now a true, genuine star.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34622

Reported Deaths: 1215
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds282449
DeSoto186519
Madison141936
Jones118549
Harrison109615
Rankin106315
Neshoba103976
Forrest97243
Lauderdale95481
Scott80915
Jackson74418
Washington70010
Copiah64215
Leake62120
Lee60022
Oktibbeha58928
Holmes57941
Warren57720
Grenada5698
Wayne56018
Yazoo5486
Lowndes53613
Leflore52856
Lamar5227
Lincoln51935
Pike48820
Sunflower4708
Lafayette4644
Monroe43935
Panola4326
Covington4295
Bolivar39418
Simpson3843
Attala38324
Newton36710
Adams34719
Pontotoc3396
Tate33313
Marion32412
Claiborne30011
Winston29611
Chickasaw29319
Pearl River28132
Noxubee2778
Marshall2763
Jasper2716
Clay25611
Walthall2497
Union24611
Smith23712
Coahoma2196
Clarke21725
Lawrence2022
Yalobusha2028
Kemper18314
Tallahatchie1784
Carroll17411
Humphreys16110
Calhoun1605
Montgomery1513
Itawamba1458
Tippah14411
Hancock14113
Webster13411
Jefferson1223
Tunica1213
Jefferson Davis1184
Prentiss1173
George1123
Greene11210
Amite1083
Quitman971
Tishomingo971
Wilkinson969
Alcorn942
Perry794
Choctaw754
Stone732
Franklin542
Sharkey470
Benton440
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6219167
Mobile4625138
Montgomery4397111
Tuscaloosa258652
Madison19839
Marshall190411
Shelby155724
Lee153537
Morgan12415
Baldwin117011
Walker105631
Elmore100721
Dallas9789
Franklin92816
Etowah91914
DeKalb8647
Russell6650
Chambers66427
Autauga66214
Butler64529
Tallapoosa62569
Unassigned61627
Limestone5963
Houston5616
Lauderdale5556
Cullman5546
St. Clair4842
Colbert4816
Lowndes48022
Escambia4688
Pike4675
Calhoun4565
Coffee4164
Covington40312
Jackson4022
Barbour3772
Bullock37610
Dale3721
Talladega3677
Hale34323
Marengo34211
Clarke3036
Wilcox2998
Chilton2952
Winston2925
Sumter28713
Blount2811
Marion26714
Pickens2626
Monroe2553
Randolph2489
Conecuh2278
Perry2242
Bibb2151
Macon2129
Choctaw20912
Greene1929
Henry1463
Washington1367
Crenshaw1263
Lawrence1210
Cherokee1157
Geneva950
Lamar871
Clay822
Fayette811
Coosa631
Cleburne421
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 85°
Columbus
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 81°
Oxford
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 82°
Starkville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 73°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather