Former Cavs GM Explains Exactly Why LeBron James Left Cavs for Lakers

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When former Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James made his dramatic decision to leave the team via free agency on July 1, continuing speculation began about exactly why he made that decision. While James hasn’t officially offered an answer, former Cavs general manager David Griffin offered his own insight into the veteran’s choice.

Griffin appeared on’s Wine and Gold Talk podcast and offered (at approximately the 17-minute mark) his unique insight on the story. That vantage point came courtesy of being the team’s general manager for the first three years of James’ return to Cleveland.

“You know, it’s really interesting,” Griffin said. “So, obviously, I have nothing but the ultimate respect for him and clearly I think he is the best player of his generation and probably several other generations. Look, nobody even knows my name if he’s not from Akron, and I’m very, very consciously aware of that and I think one of the reasons that he felt compelled to do this is that in setting up his post-NBA career, when you’ve got a production company that’s as prolific as his is already, there’s no better way to establish yourself in Hollywood and announce your presence with authority like signing with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“So I think this has as much to do with what comes next as anything else. I think his family enjoys the lifestyle there and I can’t say I blame them, it’s beautiful. But you don’t go about the process of buying a home in L.A. and continue to upgrade your home in L.A. while you’re living in Cleveland, without some intention of going to L.A.

“So, that was fairly clear I think, and so if you were paying attention, you could add everything together and know there was going to be a next step. And I think the fact that the Lakers signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope the year previously that they did, for the number that they did, gave them the ability to legally tamper by letting Rich Paul (James’ agent) see how incredibly good Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka could be at selling a vision of the franchise. So I think it all coalesced into going to the Lakers, but mostly it was what comes next for LeBron?”

Another thing that possibly might have played a role in James’ decision involved Griffin himself. In June 2017, Griffin and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert failed to come to terms on a new contract, ending the general manager’s tenure with the team. Prior to that decision, James had been vocal about keeping Griffin as the central figure within the Cavs’ front office. That deep respect James had for Griffin’s efforts was also reflected in his social media comments after the decision was made, with the superstar pointedly expressing praise for his work while not-so-subtly taking a shot at Gilbert.

James will continue to be a part of the NBA for the foreseeable future, but Griffin continues to remain on the outside looking in when it comes to running another team. There had been some speculation earlier this year that he was in line to be hired by some Eastern Conference teams, but that didn’t come to fruition.

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Brad Sullivan is a lead writer for Cavaliers Nation. He has spent much of life in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and has remained a Cavalier fan from their 1970 beginnings through the return of LeBron James. While that fandom was sorely tested during the Reign of Error known simply by one word, Stepien, that overall historical perspective will be part of his writing for Cavaliers Nation in the months ahead.