LeBron James has an unprecedented amount of power within the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The ways in which this power manifests itself on the court are obvious. Since the beginning of the season he has taken on play-calling responsibilities, effectively eliminated the offence David Blatt installed in the preseason, and decided to play himself at point guard at one point. Without the injured Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in the Eastern Conference Finals, he has basically become a one-man show, for better or worse.
But plenty of star players have this sort of freedom on the court. Off the court is where LeBron really separates himself.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst went on Zach Lowe’s podcast before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals and discussed LeBron’s impending free agency, and he gave some good perspective on how LeBron always gets his way.
When discussing coach Blatt’s future, Windhorst, who has been covering LeBron since high school, explained how LeBron uses a “passive-aggressive” strategy to get what he wants when he knows he has leverage.
“I don’t feel that there’s an issue with the organisation [with Blatt]. But I do know this: nobody plays a better passive-aggressive game than LeBron James. LeBron will be a free agent. He’s going to not pick up his player option. And there’s this perception out there that LeBron got Mike Brown fired when he left the Cavs [in 2010], that’s is just absolutely not true. What happened is LeBron went silent. The season ended and LeBron would not return the Cavs’ calls, texts, or emails, and they sat around and because LeBron wouldn’t say anything they panicked and fired Mike Brown. And this is the way LeBron plays.
“It’s never been in LeBron’s M.O. to demand, like, ‘Trade this guy, trade that guy, fire this guy, fire that guy.’ That’s not who he is. But if he plays his passive-aggressive game with his free agency, which is just his way of exerting power, I can’t predict what will happen.”
When LeBron is in a position of power, he sits quietly and waits for the team to appease him. He’s technically not making organizational decisions — and thus shoulders none of the blame — but he is, in a way, coercing his team into making decisions to make him happy.
When LeBron returned to Cleveland, he signed a two-year deal with an opt-out clause after the first year. This wasn’t just a savvy financial move, it gave him a ton of leverage over the direction of the team because he can, in theory, leave at any time.
We’ve already seen LeBron’s power in action a number of times this season. Before the year we saw the team sign LeBron’s friend Mike Miller to a two-year deal, even though he’s well past his prime. We saw the Cavs cave and include Andrew Wiggins in the Kevin Love trade, a move that many have speculated was supported by LeBron. Before the team made the Iman Shumpert/J.R. Smith trade that helped turn around their season, they even went to LeBron for approval.
This summer will be yet another display of LeBron’s power. Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and probably Kevin Love will all be free agents. All of them stand to get significant raises, which would put the Cavs well above the luxury tax line. But LeBron’s own free agency puts pressure on the team to re-sign all four of those guys, no matter the price. Not only do they risk looking cheap in LeBron’s eyes if they let one of them go, they risk making the team worse before the summer of 2016, when LeBron will likely be a free agent again.
And then there’s the David Blatt thing. Given the awkward nature of the LeBron-Blatt relationship, will he be back in 2015-16?
Blatt’s future — along with the rest of the Cavs’ offseason — is going to be heavily influenced by LeBron.
NOW WATCH: How LeBron James spends his money
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.