There have been some bizarre NBA free agent rumors over the last several years, but LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers isn’t that far up there on its face.
The Cavaliers have come alive of late, but they don’t appear to have a real chance to win the NBA Finals this season, and they also don’t seem to have a clear avenue towards internal improvement as James continues to age.
If that’s the case, then it would make some sense for James to depart and try to find a better situation, whether he thinks that’s with the oft-rumored Los Angeles Lakers or a dark horse like the Houston Rockets or Philadelphia 76ers.
But according to Chris Sheridan of NJ.com, that’s not why James wants out. He reportedly wants to leave come free agency because of political differences with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert:
The No. 1 reason why this is going to happen is because Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is a huge Trump supporter; LeBron is not.
It is a matter of public record that Gilbert donated $750,000 to President Trump’s inauguration fund. Quicken is now the largest mortgage lender in America, and according to Fortune’s real-time wealth calculator, Gilbert woke up this morning with a net worth of $6.3 billion.
It’s worth noting that all of this is just speculation for now, albeit a sourced one. However, it’s also not hard to connect the dots when James’ and Gilbert’s remarriage with the Cavaliers has always been one of convenience and necessity rather than one built on mutual respect.
Their icy relationship was on public display when Gilbert wrote his infamous letter calling out James for leaving the Cavaliers in free agency the first time, and the two have never had a big public makeup.
Combine that with Gilbert’s open, documented support for a politician James has called a “bum” on Twitter, and it’s not hard to speculate that he and Gilbert might not be on the best of terms. Add that the Cavaliers might have a tough time staying a contender, even with James, and it might be enough to entice him to leave.
If he wants to go somewhere with different political leanings, the Rockets and Sixers won’t work, but the Lakers would.
President of basketball operations Magic Johnson supported Hillary Clinton in the last election, while Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is a longtime Democrat. Even Lonzo Ball’s father, LaVar Ball, has publicly feuded with Trump on social media, just like James.
Is that enough to get James to the Lakers? Maybe not, but it almost certainly can’t hurt their case if politics are indeed why James is so set to leave this summer.