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The DecisionPart 3
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Choose LeBron’s Path

Another title in LA? A Twitter war with teammate Joel Embiid? Keeping that standing Applebee’s res at the nice Cleveland location? We imagined six completely fake news outcomes (with definite notes of truth) for LeBron James’ prospective NBA destinations.

Cavaliers

Lakers

Rockets

76ers

Celtics

Heat

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LeBron in Cleveland
July 7, 2018

LEBRON OPTS TO FINISH NBA CAREER IN CLEVELAND, BECAUSE WHY NOT

LeBron announces his intention to stay in Cleveland with another Lee Jenkins SI takeout: “I’m Staying Home.” In the write-up, he spends 600 words on the impact he hopes to have in Akron and 200 words on the Cavs’ chances next season. He signs a long-term contract that’ll keep him in Cleveland for life.

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LeBron in Cleveland
February 10, 2019

CAVS SCRAMBLE LINEUP, AGAIN, FAIL TO MESH, AGAIN

Looking for reinforcements, Cleveland pulls off two surprising moves. First, Kyle Korver, Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, and a 2021 first-round pick head to Charlotte for the disgruntled Kemba Walker. Then, Kevin Love goes to Dallas for Harrison Barnes, straight up.

With a lineup of Walker, George Hill, Barnes, LeBron, and Tristan Thompson, Cleveland thrives early, but eventually struggles to coalesce. Barnes shoots under 30 percent from the field, while Walker’s usage tumbles. Cleveland falls to below .500 by the end of January. Rumors fly at the deadline, but no moves are made. The Cavs end up rejecting a proposed offer of Barnes for Carmelo Anthony.

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Fear the Sword@FeartheSword

7:39 AM,
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LeBron in Cleveland
May 14, 2019

LEBRON’S FINALS STREAK FINALLY ENDS

Cleveland rallies to a 47-35 record and the No. 3 seed, behind Boston and Philadelphia. After disposing of Washington in the first round, Cleveland is seen as favorites against the 76ers, but dig themselves a hole after losing the first two games. LeBron dominates in Game 3, but misses a game-winning attempt at the buzzer in Game 4. Philly triumphs in Game 5 as Joel Embiid makes fun of the 3-1 meme on Twitter.

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Joel Embiid@JoelEmbiid

11:15 AM,
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LeBron in Los Angeles
July 4, 2018

LAKERS SIGN LEBRON AND KEVIN DURANT

Magic Johnson accidentally reveals a meeting in June with the agents of Kevin Durant and LeBron, earning a record tampering fine. The Lakers are fined $5 million and lose two future first-round picks; they still sign KD and LeBron.

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Kevin Durant@KDTrey5

8:51 PM,
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LeBron in Los Angeles
November 28, 2018

OWNER OF LAKERS SECRET BURNER ACCOUNT ... REVEALED!

After LaVar Ball’s failed training camp gamble to get the stars to let the point guard run the show — Lonzo is traded within minutes! LeBron assumes point guard duties! — the Lakers continue to struggle.

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Ramona Shelburne@ramonashelburne

10:02 AM, September 28, 2018

And following an early season loss to the Rockets, LeBron posts a wistful #TBT Instagram starring himself and Kevin Love. Twitter uncovers a burner account liking tweets critical of LeBron and praising Durant, but after a 96-hour investigation that consumes NBA Twitter, the account is traced not to Durant, but to Kobe Bryant.

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GO LAKERS!@LakeShow12345678

8:43 PM,
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LeBron in Los Angeles
June 14, 2019

LAKERS CRUISE PAST GOLDEN STATE, WIN TITLE. FANS STILL DON’T LIKE DURANT

The Lakers still thrive, winning 65 games and earning the No. 1 seed. That leads to a showdown against the Warriors. Durant is booed mercilessly in Oracle during the Western Conference Finals, but he and LeBron take turns isolating on Steph Curry and scoring on him as the Lakers win in 7. Los Angeles then tops Philly to win its first title with LeBron; Kobe tries to join the celebration after the Lakers’ win, but LeBron whispers something to Magic and security escorts Kobe out.

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SB Nation@SBNation

11:30 PM, June 1, 2019
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LeBron in Houston
June 30, 2018

LEBRON TO HOUSTON, BUT BANANA BOAT COMPADRE CARMELO IS PART OF THE DEAL

LeBron James agrees to opt into his contract and facilitate a trade to Houston, but on two conditions: they re-sign Chris Paul to a max; and they do everything possible to bring in Carmelo Anthony. Daryl Morey does both, trading Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and as many first-round picks as possible to Cleveland. Then, he convinces OKC to take Ryan Anderson and Nene in a trade for Anthony. After all that, Morey manages to re-sign Clint Capela.

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The Dream Shake@DreamShakeSBN

7:07 PM,
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LeBron in Houston
January 25, 2019

HARDEN AND LEBRON STRUGGLE TO SHARE

To help LeBron’s transition, Paul offers to come off the bench, which Mike D’Antoni accepts. Houston mostly thrives, with LeBron shooting more three-pointers than ever while routinely nailing them from 30 feet out, but suffers three high-profile, crunch-time losses to Golden State, Minnesota, and Boston, all of which featured Harden looking off LeBron on several possessions. LeBron vows to take control of the offense late and Harden slides into a spot-up role, where his numbers suffer.

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NBA.com/Stats@NBAStats

6:12 AM,
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LeBron in Houston
June 15, 2019

ROCKETS WIN CHAMPIONSHIP AFTER OVERCOMING EARLY DEFENSIVE BLUNDERS

After easily dispatching Denver and Utah, the Rockets fall behind 0-2 to Golden State, with defensive mistakes galore. Harden questions the team’s effort on defense, but we all know he’s really questioning LeBron. Back in Houston, LeBron takes over in Games 3 and 4, then Paul thrives in Game 5 as Harden is benched in crunch time. Houston wins the series, then dispatches Boston in 5 as Harden gets his groove back, toying with Marcus Smart for stepback 3 after stepback 3.

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SB Nation NBA@SBNationNBA

11:45 PM, May 25, 2019
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Houston Rockets@HoustonRockets

11:20 PM, May 31, 2019
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LeBron in Philadelphia
July 8, 2018

EMBIID COURTS LEBRON IN HIS OWN UNIQUE WAY

The Sixers hire David Griffin, who wears slightly oversized collars to his press conference. As LeBron meets with the various teams, Joel Embiid spends the early days of July mercilessly roasting them on Twitter, including jokes about the Rockets choking, Tristan Thompson, and Hassan Whiteside. He crosses the line at least twice.

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Joel Embiid@JoelEmbiid

7:58 PM, July 1, 2018
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Joel Embiid@JoelEmbiid

10:02 AM, July 2, 2018
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Joel Embiid@JoelEmbiid

3:46 AM, July 3, 2018

LeBron announces his Sixers move in a 45-second Uninterrupted video from a gym where he, Simmons, Embiid, and Markelle Fultz are hitting the weights. Joel Embiid wears giant collars to opening night against Boston.

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LeBron in Philadelphia
February 25, 2019

TWITTER WAR THREATENS TO DERAIL EVERYTHING

After an early season loss, LeBron drops “find a new slant” during a press availability. LeBron is trying to get Fultz traded by midseason, much to Embiid’s chagrin. A series of subtweets between LeBron and Embiid ensue, which threatens team chemistry even as the 76ers stay close with Boston for the No. 1 seed.

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Zach Lowe@ZachLowe_NBA

11:33 PM, February 25, 2019
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LeBron in Philadelphia
June 14, 2019

LEBRON GETS SWEPT AGAIN

In the end, Fultz stays and the 76ers get it together. They earn the No. 3 seed, finishing behind Boston and the surprising Toronto Raptors, but win their first three rounds — another sweep over Toronto and a rout of Boston in 5. (Embiid trolls Kyrie Irving all through the Eastern Conference Finals.) But the Warriors sweep the Finals again as LeBron, Embiid, and Simmons shrug at each other for four games.

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JR Smith@TheRealJRSmith

6:54 AM,
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LeBron in Boston
August 21, 2018

CAVS TRADE LEBRON TO CELTICS, KYRIE SKIPS OUT

LeBron opts into his contract and announces his decision to join Boston in a sponsored “Uncle Drew” Uninterrupted video with Kyrie Irving, where he plays Uncle Drew’s long-lost father. Cleveland trades LeBron to Boston for Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier.

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Dan Gilbert@cavsdan

2:27 PM, June 30, 2018

At an offseason event in Akron, LeBron expresses his joy at reuniting with “that kid Kyrie.” Word gets back to Kyrie’s camp, and his agent immediately leaks his desire to be traded to the Knicks. Danny Ainge somehow squeezes a sweetheart deal out of New York: Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Nkilitina, so long as they take on Tim Hardaway Jr.’s contract. Done.

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Adrian Wojnarowski@WojESPN

6:16 PM, August 27, 2018
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LeBron in Boston
January 15, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: SOME BOSTON FANS ARE TERRIBLE

Without Rozier and Irving on the roster, Brad Stevens announces his plan to start LeBron at point guard. LeBron, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Porzingis — having made a rapid recovery from a torn ACL — lead Boston to a 30-point rout over Cleveland, and Celtics Twitter flows with photoshops of the famous Boston Massacre. The lineup nickname “Boston Massacre” briefly catches on before cooler heads prevail.

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CelticsBlog@celticsblog

2:20 PM, October 19, 2018

All is well until mid-January, when Porzingis gets tangled up with Marcus Smart fighting for a rebound. The diagnosis is grim: torn left ACL, the same one he injured last season. Celtics fans immediately turn on Smart.

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LeBron in Boston
June 1, 2019

UNDERMANNED CELTICS FIGHT HARD, AGAIN, BUT CAN’T SURVIVE LEBRON INJURY

In late March, the unthinkable happens: As LeBron tears down on a fast break, he’s undercut by Rajon Rondo and badly twists his left ankle. With Boston well ahead of the pack, Brad Stevens announces that LeBron will be shut down before the playoffs.

Without James and Porzingis, a starting lineup of Ntilikina, Brown, Tatum, Marcus Morris, and Horford thrives. James comes back for the first two of the Eastern Conference Finals against Philadelphia, but isn’t himself and the Celtics lose both. Boston announces that LeBron will be shut down and they’ll move forward without him.

The Celtics somehow force a Game 7 on their home court, despite being undermanned. Before Game 7, a local radio station host does a segment on why LeBron is “a crybaby as we always knew him to be” for not fighting through the injury. The topic dominates three straight days of “Undisputedas Skip Bayless declares victory.

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Skip Bayless@RealSkipBayless

5:44 AM,

He sits out again, and Boston drops Game 7 at home. LeBron refuses to talk after the game, and eventually leaves and signs with the Lakers in the summer.

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LeBron in Miami
June 30, 2018

LEBRON RUMOR TRACKER: KING JAMES FORCES MIAMI MEETING

The only team LeBron truly loves outside of Northeast Ohio is the Miami Heat. The only problem is that Pat Riley is not going to trade the entire team away to go through another round of a LeBron frenzy. He’s politely told LeBron no several times already, but the problem is that LeBron doesn’t want to go West. He can’t stay in Cleveland — the cold winters are sucking the life out of him. He has to avoid Kyrie in Boston, he doesn’t want to step on Ben Simmons’ growth in Philly, and while he loves Giannis Antetokounmpo, there’s no way he’s moving to Milwaukee. That really only leaves Miami, and HE NEEDS TO GET BACK. So LeBron checks his finances and sees he DOES have plenty of money. And he may not win a ring, but he has to keep his NBA Finals streak alive. This is the best way to do it all.

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LeBron in Miami
September 30, 2018

BIENVENIDOS A MIAMI, LEBRON!

Meanwhile, Pat Riley is still in his office, with a small photo in his drawer of him and LeBron after their 2013 title. He hides it so no one knows how much he misses LeBron. LeBron shows up “Love Actually” style, with posters, and apologizes for leaving before. He knows he’s asking for Pat Riley to literally trade away the entire team, but he promises he can get Paul George to play here as well. They’ll all take pay cuts. They just want to win. Riley breaks down and does it. They find a bunch of random role players no one has ever heard of, and honestly, it’s all LeBron needs.

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LeBron James@kingjames

9:18 AM,
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LeBron in Miami
June 14, 2019

LEBRON GOES WINE TASTING AFTER TOUGH FINALS LOSS TO GOLDEN STATE

Despite the lack of depth, it works out beautifully. Paul George has finally accepted he’s a perfect No. 2 option, and he plays all the defense for LeBron. They cruise to the Eastern Conference Finals after earning the No. 1 seed, and take down Boston in 7. They lose to the Warriors in 5, but in Game 3, Paul George finally hits a crunch time three-pointer to erase his demons. That’s victory enough for LeBron and Heat fans, who never expected them to beat Golden State, anyway.

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Brian Windhorst@WindhorstESPN

7:40 PM, May 19, 2019
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Simulating the future...