When LeBron James decided to return to Cleveland on July 11th, 2014 and told the everybody via Sports Illustrated, the sports world went crazy. Back was the chalk toss, and back was the player which had broken the Cavaliers fan’s hearts just four years prior. Contrary to the reception some believe James should have received, most Cavs fans could not have been happier to once again have the best player on the planet playing on their team. Soon after James decided to return to Cleveland, the front office was able to pull off an amazing trade and bring another top ten talent in Kevin Love to the team. Love could be the piece the team was looking for to take them to the next level and ultimately, to a championship in June. In addition, one cannot forget about the other superstar talent already present on the Cleveland Cavaliers, a 22 year old point guard named Kyrie Irving. Together, these three basketball talents could take the Cavs to a place they have never been, the promise land.
LeBron James, Kevin Love & Kyrie Irving; three superstars, each with a unique skill set and the potential to stand among the best that have ever played the game. LeBron James is arguably the best player on the planet and has transformed himself not only into a skilled scorer and passer, but also a tremendous leader. After leaving the Cavs for Miami in 2010, Lebron learned what it took to win a championship in the NBA. Kevin Love on the other hand has never tasted continued success in the NBA. He spent the the first six years of his NBA career on a sub-par Minnesota Timberwolves team, but has posted monster rebounding and scoring numbers year over year, consistently ranked in the top 5. Kyrie Irving, the Duke product, was the face of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise after being drafted in 2011, an up and coming superstar, with unlimited potential. Kyrie was the team’s leader, and far and away best player after LeBron James left in 2010 and is a dynamic point guard with the ability to shoot the ball and create for his teammates.
People believed that the process of having these three superstar caliber talents mesh and play well together would be quick, painless and easy. However, this has not been the case so far as the Cavaliers have stumbled out of the gate, losing three of their first five regular season games. It was becoming clear that the these three players as well as the rest of the team would have to work extremely hard to mesh with each other and produce wins. In order to produce wins and win an NBA championship, the Cavs need to reevaluate the way in which the team is being led. When attempting to describe the Cleveland Cavaliers’ early season struggles, nothing better comes to mind than to compare the team to human society under the lens of Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes speaks heavily on humans and their tendency to revert to animalistic nature, thus leaving each person to live independently, without the help of other people. This can be described as acting in his or her own self-interest which is covered in Hobbes’ book titled “Leviathan“. After evaluating much of the Caviliers first four games, it is pretty obvious that each of the three superstars does not want to take a back seat to the other. They are each hoisting up 20 shots a game, recording very few assists, taking contested shots, and playing terrible team defense. Each player is acting in their self interest, attempting to pad their own stats and make themselves look good in the spotlight the team has created. Instead of producing wins, the team has crumbed and has been criticized heavily for their inability to play together.
Among the three superstars, LeBron James has publicly spoken out over how the team has been playing and has evaluated what needs to change in order for the Cavs to be successful. Much like what Hobbes describes in Leviathan, the three superstars as well as the rest of the players on the Cavaliers roster must escape this selfish play and enter into a contract with each other, agreeing to surrender individual interests in order to achieve the common goal of winning games and winning an NBA championship. No longer can they each take 20 shots and pad their own stats as each must sacrifice parts of their game for the betterment of the team. If James, Love, and Irving are able to complete this task and play to win games, instead of for themselves, they have the potential to be the best team in the entire league.
Following a blowout loss to the Portland Trailblazers on November 6th in which the Cavs recorded a record low 6 assists (A measure of a teams ability to share the ball), LeBron James states in a postgame interview “You just can’t explain [the low assist totals]. There’s no way you’re going to win a basketball game like that, just having six assists. … We just can’t win like that, and we got to figure out a way to help each other and not make it so tough.” LeBron clearly recognizes the problem with the Cavs and is determined to make change. According to Thomas Hobbes, a sovereign needs to emerge out of the social contract that is formed in order to lead the new collective whole to success and King James fits that bill quite nicely. Not only did he face a similar problem in Miami with Dwyane Wade, but he is a natural born leader and the best player on the team. He has the ability to forge change and turn the Cavs season around before it is too late. Everybody, including Irving and Love, have the upmost respect for LeBron and will therefore follow by example.
With King James as the sovereign of the Cleveland Cavaliers, is the rest of the NBA in trouble?