LeBron James made it cool to turn the business of basketball into a personal endeavor. His decision to return to Cleveland after four years in Miami was highlighted by the fact that he wanted to bring glory to his hometown state of Ohio, a concept that was lost on him in 2010 and still seems like an impossibility for most players. The NBA is about money and winning, in that order, and you can’t always obtain those goals in the city where you grew up.
But if this most recent free agency period taught us anything, it’s that if a superstar wants something, he’s probably going to get it. Maybe other stars will find that going home is easier than they thought, and can still lead to winning.
Here’s what I mean: In the wake of LeBron signing with Cleveland and Carmelo Anthony returning to New York, there are now rumblings that if Kevin Durant is going anywhere in 2016, it’s his hometown of Washington, D.C. Via the Washington Post:
“With LeBron going back to Cleveland, everybody here in D.C. is thinking about Kevin Durant in 2016,” [ESPN’s Brian] Mitchell said. “The Wiz seem to be jockeying to be in that sweepstakes. Who are they going to have to compete against when that happens?”
“I don’t think anybody, to be quite honest with you,” Smith said. “Obviously the New York Knicks would be in the mix and what have you. But there are folks that I’ve spoken to that are relatively close to Kevin Durant that tell me if he were to decide to leave Oklahoma City, it would be for the nation’s capital. That’s the kind of dude he is. That’s a place that he would consider.
“I certainly don’t want to sit here as a reporter and insider and try to give indications that he’s planning on leaving Oklahoma City,” Smith said. “I don’t know that to be sure. I don’t know that to be the case. But I was told that if there is a team that would be strongly considered, it is the Washington Wizards, and him returning home.”
That idea would have been ludicrous a few years ago, but now a team built around John Wall, Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Nene sounds like a great fit for Durant. He’s made a second home for himself in Oklahoma, but you never forget your first.
A similar theme may be taking hold throughout the league. Kevin Love is interested in going to Cleveland to team up with LeBron, but it sounds like that won’t happen unless the Cavs ship out Andrew Wiggins or Kyrie Irving. Unless somebody steps up to the plate and delivers an overwhelming deal, the Wolves may end up waiting out Love’s contract altogether, at which point he signs with the Lakers, still featuring animatronic Kobe Bryant and Julius Randle. (Note: Love was born in California and attended UCLA despite growing up in Oregon.)
Hell, even Dwyane Wade has yet to re-sign with Miami — what if he pulls a stunner and heads to Chicago to shore up the Bulls at shooting guard and help turn that team into the best in the East (on paper)? This would still be possible in 2016, assuming he signs a two-year deal, which the Heat have been signing many of their new free agents to.
Elite Daily put together some graphics on what a bunch of NBA teams would look like if their hometown heroes came back. It’s an interesting thought, but sadly only the best of the best usually get to make that choice. If Durant does it in two years, consider it an official trend.
Photo via Getty