We never thought we’d write these words, but Boston Celtics fans owe Magic Johnson a hug.
By all accounts, the Los Angeles Lakers’ president of basketball operations played a crucial role in LeBron James’ monumental decision to sign with the Purple and Gold on Sunday. James reportedly was considering staying with the Cleveland Cavaliers or joining the Philadelphia 76ers or Houston Rockets, but Magic convinced him to come to Hollywood.
And Celtics fans should be jumping for joy.
Why? There’s an obvious reason: Boston’s path to the Eastern Conference finals just got a whole lot easier. Teams led by James have won eight consecutive East titles, eliminating the Celtics along the way in four of those seasons. LeBron has been a bona fide C’s killer. (He once insisted he’d break his mother’s face if she was wearing a Celtics uniform.)
Sure, Boston has high expectations next season, but if James stayed in Cleveland or joined a young, hungry Sixers squad, the Celtics still would have to take down the best player in the world to reach the NBA Finals.
Now, the path is clear. Philly and the Toronto Raptors are the only clubs that should challenge Boston in a weak Eastern Conference that could get weaker before Opening Night. LeBron attracts talent like moths to a flame, and it’s possible a veteran on an East “contender” signs in L.A. to chase a ring with The King.
The Sixers could pose a serious threat if they trade for Kawhi Leonard, but the San Antonio Spurs star appears set on joining the Lakers, as well. The Western Conference will be absolutely loaded next season, and an East team winning the NBA title seems like a long shot. But Boston now is the clear favorite to have that opportunity.
Consider this, too: While James’ Lakers should be title contenders in short order, it might not happen this season. L.A. won just 35 games last season, and building a complete roster that can take down the mighty Golden State Warriors might take a year or two. In the meantime, though, the new-look Lakers at least should make life more difficult for the Dubs, who have lost just six games total in their last eight playoff series. Perhaps Golden State will be a bit more ripe for an upset should Boston come out of the East.
When L.A. is ready to contend for a title, get your popcorn ready. Any NBA fan will tell you a Celtics-Lakers Finals is as good as it gets, and a potential Kyrie Irving-LeBron showdown would take the fierce rivalry to new heights. A C’s-Sixers Eastern Conference finals followed by Boston-L.A. for the title is basketball bliss, and the way things are headed, we could see several of those matchups.
LeBron taking his talents to Tinseltown is the NBA’s best scenario based on entertainment value alone. But The Decision 3.0 also was the best possible outcome for the Celtics, who have their eyes locked on Banner 18.
Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images