What if LeBron had dumped ‘The Decision’ and joined the Bulls?

LeBron Raymone James is my favorite basketball player of all time.

I speak in hyperbole a lot, but this isn’t hyperbole. This is just a fact. There isn’t an athlete who has ever done athlete things that I’ve enjoyed watching more than him. I have argued with strangers online for years over his greatness. And even I, a LeBron stan, will admit that “The Decision” was, in fact, a bad decision.

I’m not referring to him going to Miami — the Heatles were a blast. I’m referring to the production itself. It was unnecessarily drawn out and awkward, LeBron seemed uncomfortable and underprepared, and it came across as insensitive to drop that bomb on your home team while the entire universe watched him announce he would be taking his talents to South Beach.

GREENWICH, CT - JULY 08: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Jim Gray of ESPN speaks with LeBron James at attends the LeBron Jame=s Pre Decision Meet and Greet on July 8, 2010 in Greenwich, Connecticut. Proceeds from tonight's 2.5 million dollar event will be donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
LeBron James' actual decision to go to Miami wasn't a bad one, but LaJethro Jenkins has issues with how it went down. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Estabrook Group)

So, on The Decision’s 10-year anniversary, we want to rewind to the summer of 2010 and give everyone a chance to see what could have happened if LeBron had not only made a better decision about airing The Decision, but changed his decision entirely.

LeBron takes his talents to Chicago

That summer LeBron took meetings with six teams; the clubs believed to have had a real shot outside of Miami were the Knicks, Cavs and Bulls. LeBron wanted to go somewhere he could win. The other two contenders were reportedly the Clippers and Nets, but if you added both of their rosters together you wouldn’t have a playoff team. They were lucky to get in the room.

The Knicks were coached by Mike D’Antoni and had the necessary cap space, but they won only 29 games the year before — cute but not quite enough. LeBron had already given Cleveland the first seven years of his career with limited postseason success, so it was time to make a change.

That leaves us with the Bulls. Chicago had a squad with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and cap space to grab another star. Chicago was historically one of the best basketball cities in the country, and it’s the third-largest media market. In this scenario, LeBron decides to go to the Bulls and persuades his BFF Dwyane Wade to join him. He also decides to veto The Decision idea after having a prescient nightmare about the aftermath. So, he assembles a championship-ready team in the Windy City, but what happens to Chris Bosh?

In real life, LeBron, Wade and Bosh vowed during the 2008 Olympics to make a joint decision regarding 2010 NBA free agency. In our alternative timeline, this pact is broken, and Bosh is pissed. He’s tired of paying the exorbitant taxes that come with playing in the NBA’s lone Canadian outpost, and this was supposed to be his chance to win big. He refuses to wait any longer and is not only set on getting out of Toronto, he wants to exact revenge on his former buddies.

Chris Bosh of USA men's basketball team for the Beijing 2008 Olympics reacts after missing to score during a match between USA and Russia as a warm-up for Olympics at the USA Basketball International Challenge tournament in Shanghai Sunday Aug. 3, 2008. US won 89-68.
In our alternate reality Chris Bosh is left out of LeBron James' and Dwyane Wade's 2010 free-agency plans, and he is not pleased. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

The Lakers were another desired destination of Bosh’s in 2010, but they didn’t have the cap space. In our multiverse, the Raptors and Lakers agree to a sign-and-trade deal that swaps Bosh with Pau Gasol, who eventually gets to play alongside his brother, Marc.

Kobe vs. LeBron

We salivated over a possible Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron NBA Finals matchup in 2009 and 2010, but didn’t see it due to the Cavs’ lack of firepower. In 2011, it’s ripped away from us again when the Mavericks win the Western Conference and eventually the title with the kid from Akron, Ohio, barfing all over himself under pressure.

In 2012, LeBron becomes a man and wreaks havoc on the league, but despises playing under coach Tom Thibodeau. So GM LeBron persuades D’Antoni to push a buyout in New York and come to the Bulls, where he was reportedly interested in going before taking the Knicks job.

The Lakers make a move on Chris Paul, and agree to give up Andrew Bynum in a deal that also includes Lamar Odom and a draft pick. This gets Paul to Los Angeles, giving the Lakers what was rightfully theirs until David Stern nixed it in 2011. This brings the two biggest stars in the league on a most-certain collision course for not just one Finals series but a trilogy that spans from 2012-14. Chills.

What if LeBron James had decided to join the Bulls instead of the Heat on July 8, 2010?
After an initial stumble, in our sports multiverse, we get an epic LeBron vs. Kobe NBA Finals trilogy. (Yahoo Sports illustration by Mo Haidar and Amber Matsumoto)

Before we continue, I want to acknowledge Kobe’s real-life Achilles injury in 2013. He was fighting so hard that year trying to drag his squad into the playoffs. Having some help possibly prevents or at least delays the injury so we could have a chance to see Kobe stretch out his formidable years.

It’s a similar case with Rose’s ACL injury in the 2012 playoffs. He probably doesn’t win the 2011 MVP with LeBron on board — Dwight Howard gets it that year — but getting Thibs out of Chicago and the lightened workload would have almost certainly extended Rose’s prime, allowing for some incredible basketball.

Also, if you’re wondering what happens to Bynum ... he falls in love with the music culture in New Orleans, leaves the game after a couple more seasons and pursues his newfound passion for the saxophone. His Christmas album ranks up there with Kenny G’s “Miracles.” It’s his magnum opus.

When it comes to who wins, I lean toward the Bulls winning in 2012 and 2014, and the Lakers in 2013. LeBron had to make up for 2011, and he and Wade were way too dominant that year. Same goes for 2013, but it’s hard to imagine Bean losing two years in a row and missing out on a chance to tie Michael Jordan’s ring count against the Bulls. We saw him drop a 60-burger on the way out. Kobe almost always did Kobe stuff when it was time to do Kobe stuff, and we see something Herculean in 2013.

In 2014 Wade isn’t as good, but Kobe’s older too and a LeBron-Rose tandem pulls it off. Unexpectedly, a late draft pick from 2011 named Jimmy Butler proves to be a big help that series as well.

The aftermath

What’s the fallout? How does the league look? Not much is different.

The Warriors’ dynasty still happens, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson change the game, but more importantly, LeBron goes back home, we still get that epic 2016 Finals and Cleveland gets its Larry O’Brien Trophy. His years in Chicago crystallized the importance of bringing a chip to the home team. He understood regardless of his success, Chicago belonged to Jordan. It was paramount to make Cleveland his.

What’s most interesting is how we discuss these players. Kobe now has six rings, his last coming against LeBron. LeBron with two chips against a GOAT while playing in the house that Jordan built. Chris Paul now has a ring and maybe more if he’s still there when LeBron comes in 2018.

How does this impact their legacies? Who knows? What I do know is those matchups would have been legendary. Almost as legendary as an Andrew Bynum Christmas album. Like I said, it was his magnum opus.

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