Greg Cote

LeBron James has only 1 choice if he wants to meet the challenge of his legacy head-on

The Summer Of LeBron is christened and underway, but don't expect protracted drama. Decision 3.0 might even happen before you've cleaned up after your Fourth of July barbecue. Mr. James' options fine-tuned themselves with his own decision to opt out of his Cleveland contract and become an unrestricted free agent.

Had he opted in with the Cavaliers it might have been with the understanding of an agreed-upon trade that could have sent him most anywhere. Miami, even.

Now, by opting out, he has three realistic choices before him.

Only one is worth hoping for from an entertainment standpoint.

He could stay in Cleveland but that would be anticlimactic, bor-ring, popular only in Cleveland. Plus, he came back and won the city its championship. He'd be far less vilified for leaving this time.

He could sign with Philadelphia to join forces with young Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but he'd still be hiding in the NBA's weaker Eastern Conference. It would a safe decision, but hardly one with a clear path to more rings.

Lakers, please.


Let us count the reasons why.

James signing would make Los Angeles a desirable destination for the likes of fellow free agent Paul George, a California kid who has openly talked about wanting to be a Laker, and for Kawhi Leonard, who is trying to work a trade out of San Antonio. George sought Dwyane Wade's opinion on free agency and the Heat star told him, "It isn't about the money. What fulfilled me was raising that gold thing above my head."

If George wants his long-elusive ring, proximity to LeBron (and maybe Kawhi) might be a good start. Would D-Wade also follow his BFF to L.A? It wouldn't be far-fetched. Wife Gabrielle Union is an actress, after all. Can't dwell on that maybe, though. Too much else to savor about LeBron as a Laker.

It would bring back Showtime. Heck, Jack Nicholson might even come out of mothballs at 81.

It would bring LeBron home, considering he already owns a mansion and a TV/film production company in the L.A. area.

It would give you a reason to stay up late and watch a West Coast game.

It would drop LeBron into the delicious absurdity of the one-man circus Lavar Ball (unless, of course, L.A. traded Lonzo in the deal to get Leonard, in which case Lavar would grab Lonzo by the wrist and go start his own league).

It would be LeBron accepting the shadow of Kobe Bryant because he knows his shadow is bigger than Kobe's.

It would be King James playing in the biggest market of his career, on the biggest stage, and for the first time having a boss of similar stature as a player, in Magic Johnson.

But here is the best reason to hope James winds up a Laker.

It would be him not ducking or dodging but running right toward the fight -- right at the Golden State Warriors.

Going into the West to directly take on Steph Curry and Kevin Durant and the NBA's modern dynasty would be legacy-enhancing for LeBron. And if he made it work? If he won a fourth championship (or more) by dethroning the mighty Warriors?

That would be career-defining in a way that taking his talents to South Beach and winning two championships was not.

That would be career-defining in a way that even the sentiment of winning a title for Cleveland was not.

Golden State has cost LeBron a championship ring three of the past four seasons.

If he wants what's his, all he has to do is make the Lakers matter again and go take it.