Up until LeBron James decided to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, there was widespread speculation as to exactly which factors would inform his choice of team. Would he hope to continue to build on his accomplishments in Miami despite a less functional supporting cast? Would he opt for the familiarity and story of returning to Cleveland? Or would he consider all possible factors, including varying degrees of competitiveness and comfort, since no decision is actually dependent on one single factor?
LeBron decided to present his decision as guided primarily by emotion, even if the desire to win with the Cavs' young core surely played a part. At root, LeBron chose the Cavs based on what he wanted, either as a native Ohioan, a onetime Cav, or as a basketball icon looking for the best way to cement his legacy.
It appears that James received a small measure of help in making that choice. Legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who guided LeBron and Team USA to Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012, spoke to the star before he made his free-agent choice. Josh Newman has the story for Zagsblog.com (via For The Win):
At the LeBron James Skills Academy last week in Las Vegas, the newly re-minted Cleveland Cavalier was under a self-imposed public gag order.
James was determined not to create the mess that his 2010 free agency turned into, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t willing to discuss the topic last week with someone he greatly respects.
“I wished him luck, he looked like he was in control of the situation,” Duke and Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski said on a conference call Monday morning after USA Basketball announced its 19-player FIBA World Cup training camp roster. “I just told him, ‘Do what you feel you need to do. You don’t owe anybody, you owe yourself.’ He didn’t need any advice from me.” [...]
“I hope that the main thing is he serves as an example of what a star player, what a great player does in order to develop his greatness and keep it going,” Krzyzewski said. “For Kyrie to be around that on a day-to-day basis, really all the teammates, but especially Kyrie because he can be that level of player. He’s very fortunate to have that.”
As Coach K notes, his comments don't exactly rank up there with the wisdom of the great sages through history — all he's saying is that he told LeBron not to worry about the surrounding noise and trust himself. That is likely something James already thought he should do, especially if he seemed in control of the situation like Krzyzewski suggests. It's not as if we should treat this advice as pure gold just because it came from a widely respected basketball figure.
However, Coach K's status does afford his comments some extra importance. When LeBron went through with "The Decision" in 2010, he raised the ire of the basketball world from the least famous fan to several very famous people surrounding the sport. If Coach K gave him advice that aligned with his thinking, then it stands to reason that he would have gained more confidence in his choice. It could have been helpful to know that a respected figure in the sport was on his side, if only to reassure him that he was headed on the right path.
In other words, Coach K may have helped LeBron simply by informing him that he had the basketball community behind any decision he made. Given that James says he returned to Cleveland in part to strengthen his roots, it would not be surprising if such a statement made him feel stronger before Friday's announcement. That kind of support obviously means a lot to him.
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