Appearing on The Ringer’s Bill Simmons’ Podcast, ESPN analyst and known LeBron-whisperer Brian Windhorst mentioned the Dallas Mavericks as a sneaky candidate for the final phase of LeBron James’ career, due to his affinity for Luka Doncic. This isn’t the first time he’s mentioned such a concept; five months ago on ESPN’s NBA Today, Windhorst hinted at it, saying that LeBron would love playing with Luka.
LeBron’s love of Luka hasn’t only been told to us secondhand. He answered the question of who his favorite young player is on a Twitter Q&A by saying Luka is his “fav player”, implying his favorite in general. He picks him in each all-star draft (despite Luka resembling a tee-ball outfielder playing with ants in the game itself). They play the same point-forward role. Windhorst noted LeBron wanted Luka to be a Klutch client, before he joined with Jordan. It’s fair to think if LeBron could get any player to L.A, it would be our Slovenian superstar.
Now, we shouldn’t get ahead of our skis here. The Mavericks were simply worth mentioning, well after Windhorst said he found it hard to see LeBron anywhere but L.A or Cleveland. Both Simmons and Windhorst agreed that titles would be the impetus for a move, since LeBron is famously legacy-driven. The Cavs with LeBron is a terrifying super team. They also tossed around LeBron’s growing public regard for Steph Curry, and the way the Warrior’s combination of payroll lassitude and ambition makes them viable for any superstar.
There are also many unknowns to LeBron’s future. He has stated a wish to play with his son, Bronny, who is currently ranked 34th by 247sports.com’s composite recruiting rankings for the 2023 class. The fact he might not be a lottery-level prospect creates an interesting scenario where teams could draft the son purely to lure the father. It’s a situation without NBA precedent. We’re sure to hear more about all of this as next off-season rears its head.
If I may dream big for a second, the podcast host and his guest made interesting points about the complications of Cleveland or Golden State as destinations. They mentioned our hyper-conscious era in regards to rings and legacy, with super team rings now stigmatized as “fake”. Could LeBron see passing the torch to his stylistic heir, without other all-stars, as less cheap than joining a current dynasty or creating a new one with four other all-star candidates in Cleveland? Perhaps it could be a perfect balance of contention and narrative. LeBron has been publicly reverent of Jason Kidd and Jared Dudley from their Lakers days. It’s not hyperbolic to say Vegas would have us 5th or so on a list of odds.
Yet, again, much like in other star-destination conversations, the Mavericks seem an after thought. I can’t imagine anything unhealthier for Mavs’ fans than pretending it’s a reality, or anything unhealthier for the organization than to bank on it. I for one can’t handle the trauma of a plan-powder built around LeBron James. We know the Maverick’s will try to make big moves in the near future, but after the “big fish” era of Donnie Nelson so often ended in disappointment, I think we’d all like something to dream on that feels more tangible.
For now, file this away as a fun idea, more than full-blown rumor.