There are no shortage of theories why LeBron James left the Cavaliers for the Heat in 2010. Mine: He wanted to have fun.
Playing basketball with your friends is fun. Living in Miami is fun. Winning is fun.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh gave LeBron the opportunity to have the most fun, and during their four-year run, the Heatles sure had a lot of fun.
But not much of it came last season.
“It was great, you know, we went to the Finals four years in a row, and it was everything we wanted from that standpoint, but sometimes throughout that run at certain times, it just wasn’t fun,” Wade said. “Individually, it was great having certain relationships, and having my best friend here with me, but all of us didn’t have fun all the time…. I think now I’m at the point where I want to enjoy the game. Because once I’ve won three championships and been so successful, you’ve got to have something to play for. And I want to be able to play for my teammates, and just the joy of the game.”
Why wasn’t it fun?
The outsized attention? The relentless pressure?
“I don’t know,” Wade said. “It’s hard to say, man, because you want it. We wanted it. So it’s hard to say that. You don’t know exactly what’s going to come with it, but we put ourselves in that position. But sometimes you can put too much on yourself, all of us, and it becomes a black cloud around. Last year wasn’t fun. I mean, there was no stretch of it fun. That whole season, to me, it’s amazing we made it to the Finals. It’s just honest. Just this year, coming in, I can see, even the coaches, there’s just a different renewed focus and energy. No one knows what it’s going to lead to. No one knows if that’s going to lead to a Finals win or Finals loss or not the Finals at all. But right now it’s good for everyone to come in every day and want to be here.”
I’m sure LeBron felt that, too, and I’m sure it factored into him returning to Cleveland. It likely wasn’t the only reason, but everything contributes – including winning, which becomes more difficult when the team becomes burdened by expectations.
Credit Wade for owning his culpability in creating the situation. When he recruited LeBron to Miami, he got exactly what he wanted. Nobody made the big three put themselves in a position where they’d face unprecedented expectations. They chose that route, even if they didn’t fully understand all the downsides.
That said, the grass might not be greener on the other side.
It probably will be for LeBron, who gets to play with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. But for Wade, playing for a worse team that isn’t a realistic title contender might not be so fun.
It’s a shame Wade didn’t appreciate last season more. He might not get a chance to win – typically the most fun activity of all – on that level anytime soon.