Like It Or Not: Lebron James Has Changed The Modern Game

There are moments in sports history where you remember exactly where you were: David Tyree leaping up and pinning the ball against his helmet, solidifying a Super Bowl for the Giants. Or how about when Michael Jordan drained the game-winner in the Finals and held his arm in the air in victory, walking away from the game with 6 rings in heroic fashion. These moments in sports define entire generations, giving an aesthetic in our minds as we think back to the time period.

It is rare that these moments are captured away from the platform in which athletes display their…talents.  But, the enigma that is Lebron James commanded the attention of millions on July 8th, 2010 when he announced that he would be joining the Miami Heat as a free agent and leaving his hometown of Cleveland.

“The Decision” not only brings back a sense of nostalgia and puts us in our living rooms seven years ago but has influenced the present day NBA and its future. Lebron came to Miami to partner with his good friend Dwyane Wade (who had won a ring four years prior) and brought in high profile free agent Chris Bosh to form a modern super team. This was not the first “super” team formed in NBA history by any means.

The late, great Wilt Chamberlain joined the Lakers in 1968 leading Jerry West to his first ever championship the following year on a record-breaking Los Angeles team. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett famously joined Paul Pierce in Boston in 2008 and brought another title to the Celtics franchise.  There are more than a handful of cases within that 40 year period where high profile players have been traded or signed with franchises, making them immediate contenders.  So, it is quite apparent that Lebron James did not “start the super team” regardless of what Warriors forward Draymond Green might think.

So here we go again in 2017. Dwyane Wade has joined his old pal Lebron, along with Isiah Thomas, Kevin Love and former MVP Derrick Rose (another one of Lebrons closest friends in the league). By no means did Lebron start the super team but he did revolutionize the game by giving the power to the player and giving them the ability to dictate where they land in free agency.

It is the day and age where players agents are actually former players themselves and/or friends with the athlete they represent. Lebron was pulling for Rose to join the Cavs this off-season when he felt that Kyrie Irving may be on his way out. So, along with a healthy amount of communication between Rose and Lebron, the 3-time NBA champion James made sure that his agent and long-time friend Rich Paul contacted another former 3-time champion and teammate of Michael Jordan, BJ Armstrong who represents Derrick Rose ( and ironically Draymond Green). In fact, on the day that the free agent Rose visited Los Angeles to meet with the Lakers this past summer, Armstrong and Paul had the final conversation that all but inked the deal that sent Rose to Cleveland which was facilitated by none other than Lebron James.

There are many cases in today’s NBA since “The Decision” that have perpetuated superstar players joining their friends or other great players to form super teams.  Wade’s agent, Henry Thomas, orchestrated in savvy fashion a buyout per the Chicago Bulls on Wade’s contract so that the 13-year veteran could be a free agent this past offseason. Within a week’s time of the buyout, Wade was officially a Cleveland Cavalier with no visits to any other potential suitor.

While super teams have been around essentially in as many years as the NBA has been in existence, the business that is professional basketball has never been so dominated by the player’s influence. Only Michael Jordan could have commanded such authority in his prime, but he never drifted away from Chicago (that is not until after his second retirement). Lebron James, since arriving in the league in 2003, has had a similar monumental presence in basketball and sports in the modern era. His influence on professional basketball on the business side has changed not only how players handle free agency, but how they are represented by their agents.

No matter if you are a Lebron fan on the court or not, it is impossible to claim that hasn’t changed the game in his illustrious career.