The NBA is not known for its parity these days. For the past four years, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have displayed their dominance over their respective Western and Eastern Conferences, squaring off in the NBA Finals each season. However, the supremacy seems to be ending for Cleveland, as their cornerstone LeBron James has departed for the Los Angeles Lakers via free agency. This move will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the Cavaliers, Lakers, and the rest of the NBA.
LeBron James has established himself as the linchpin of the Cavaliers and the franchise's most important player throughout its history. He helped end Cleveland's 52-year professional sports championship drought as the Cavaliers won the NBA championship in the 2016 NBA Finals, rallying from a 3-1 game deficit to overcome the onslaught of the Warriors. James has already been ingrained in NBA history as one of the greatest players in basketball with his solid play and consistency, as well as a Cavaliers legend for bringing them a championship and making them perennial title contenders with his presence.
However, James' departure to Los Angeles has dealt a severe blow to the Cavaliers organization. They have been a great basketball team over the past four years, but only when James has been on the court. He has been known for carrying the team to relevance, and the Cavaliers are in for a highly uncertain future with their best player gone.
In addition, they had another budding star in Kyrie Irving, but they traded him to the Boston Celtics in 2017 after he expressed his desire to play for another team. Irving reportedly wished to be the leader of his own team rather than stay in James' shadow. However, Cleveland lost a star in Irving, and they will have an arduous time compensating for the absences of both him and James.
With the addition of James, the Lakers may be contenders for the first time in years. The hype has already built in Los Angeles and memories of their dominance with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant are flooding back to Lakers fans everywhere. Even after their failure to sign Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George, who re-signed with the Thunder on a four-year $137 million contract in free agency, the Lakers look to be a contender in the Western Conference for years to come.
More noteworthy is how this move will likely shake up the rest of the NBA. The Cavaliers will likely regress significantly, clearing the way for other teams in the Eastern Conference like the Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, etc. to try to take the reins. It will also give Golden State some more competition in the Western Conference along with the Houston Rockets and the aforementioned Thunder.
The fact that the departure of one player from one team to another can impact an entire professional sports league so significantly says a lot about the lack of parity in the NBA, even if that player is one of the greatest of all time. In time, we will see how LeBron James' move to Los Angeles plays out for the rest of the NBA.