LeBron James would like to play with Anthony Davis. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The New Orleans Pelicans star is built like a wind turbine and can impact games on both ends of the floor. You should want him on your favorite team, just like LeBron wants him on his. “That would be amazing,” James said last week when asked about the prospect of Davis joining the Lakers. “Like, duh. That would be incredible.”
As innocuous and obvious as they were, a few NBA general managers were reportedly taken aback by LeBron’s comments. “Interference is as bad as tampering—maybe worse in this case,” an anonymous Eastern Conference GM told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “This becomes a campaign meant to destabilize another organization. … We all get that it’s a players’ league, but there are rules on the books that they need to follow, too.” (An NBA spokesperson told ESPN the league would not punish LeBron for his comments.)
When asked by reporters on Friday about the tampering accusations, a nonplussed LeBron said he “play[s] by the rules.” To drive the point home, he name-checked a few other great players he’d (obviously) like to play with.
A Lakers team with LeBron, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Luka Doncic would be decent, but it still needs a center. It’s no wonder LeBron desperately wants to lure Davis to Los Angeles.
Davis is under contract with the Pelicans through the summer of 2020, and so the only way for him to leave would be via a trade. The New Orleans front office has made no indication that it would be willing to do this, but, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, “a strong offer might force an early conversation between Davis and team officials about his eventual intentions.”
Right now, the only real leverage New Orleans has it that it can offer Davis a more lucrative contract than any other team. But Amick, citing “a source with knowledge of Davis’ thinking,” reports Davis “does not see the extra $87.3 million that New Orleans is expected to offer in a five-year, $239.5 million supermax extension this summer as a factor in his eventual decision.”
This is NBA owners and general managers’ worst nightmare. The players have exerted so much control over their own futures that they now inhabit a walled-off, post-capitalistic utopia. “I’d take legacy over money,” Davis told Yahoo Sports on Friday. What’s the exchange rate here? How many Legacy Bucks™ in a dollar? I’d be happy for my legacy to be “once got paid $239.5 million,” but I am not part of this post-money NBA.
“Don’t get me wrong, money is amazing,” Davis said. “But I think in that sense, money or legacy, I think my legacy will win that battle every time.”
NBA general managers should stop complaining about LeBron’s interference and start working on their own legacy-selling skills. I’ve come up with a few sample pitches they can use ahead of the February 7 trade deadline. To avoid being fined for tampering, GMs should casually yell these within earshot of Davis, perhaps while in an adjacent bathroom stall.
—Anyone can retire a jersey number, but if Anthony Davis came to our team we’d make the mere utterance of his number punishable by exile. Dissent, and you’re on the next flight to Elba, baby!
—Rumor has it the Lakers are planning to use the guy who did the Saddam statue to carve the eventual Anthony Davis one outside their stadium. Interesting choice, but we would definitely hire an artist whose work has proven to be less topple-able.
—The golden record aboard the Voyager spacecraft is sorely lacking in Davis highlights. It would be an honor to load footage of his dunks onto an interstellar spacecraft and launch that bad boy into the farthest reaches of the universe.
These may sound a bit extreme, but that’s what the situation calls for. After all, you’re dealing with a guy who says, “money is amazing, but…” NBA GMs usually don’t plan for this kind of thing.