If LeBron James Chooses Philadelphia in Free Agency, Does That Mean The Process Is Over?

The Process has held a special place in Philadelphia fans' hearts for quite some time. Would LeBron coming to the 76ers officially end it?
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The NBA offseason is upon us and that can mean only one thing, lots of speculation about where LeBron James could end up playing basketball next season. Will LeBron stay in the weaker Eastern Conference and look to join Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia or will he try to create his own superteam somewhere in the west? Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver discuss on the latest episode of the Open Floor podcast.

(Listen to the latest Open Floor Podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

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Andrew Sharp: We have a question from a different from a different Ethan, who said, "Since the Warriors' win, I can't check Facebook without seeing LeBron photoshopped into a Sixers jersey. So if LeBron goes to Philly, does that prove that The Process was a success or does it compromise The Process and actually mean that it failed? P.S. I actually listened to my first Open Floor podcast a year ago. Happy one-year anniversary to me."

Happy one-year anniversary, Ethan. What do you think about Process: LeBron, Ben?

Ben Golliver: I think you're The Process scientist, I mean you love dissecting this from every angle and finding new ways to anger the Philly fanbase so let me hear your take.

Sharp: OK, well I do have some takes. No. 1: I think it's unequivocally a success because getting a meeting with LeBron and getting taken seriously by his people this summer kind of proves that it all worked and the whole point of The Process was putting them in the conversation of getting superstars and or championships. So in that way, it worked. I also think that there is a real possibility that LeBron shows up in Philly and after two weeks, looks around and is like "I don't want to spend the next three years with Ben Simmons. It's time to move him. It's time to move Fultz." He could really accelerate the unraveling of The Process and we could be looking up in 2019 and be talking about in memoriam. But I don't know, one of the reasons, looking at all the options on the board, I think that Philly is actually the most entertaining destination for LeBron with the highest upside and the darkest downsides and it would just be kind of fascinating to watch.

Golliver: Yeah, I don't know if this is too far outside the box but I thought The Process just died when Hinkie left. I thought that marked the official end of it and everything that happened with Bryan Colangelo, especially his abrupt end here, to me that sort of just reinforced that feeling. Like I guess Brett Brown represents The Process to a certain degree because he was a major face of it and he developed so many of the guys along the way. But to me The Process has been dead and we're already into a post-Process reality, with or without LeBron. And I agree with you that if you brought LeBron, the key pieces that were kind of accumulated during Hinkie's term would be exiled more quickly than not. But I think it's time—and this might be hard for Sixers fans to wrap their heads around—but I do think it's time to sort of move past this Process era as a fanbase.

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I think it's actually healthy for everyone. Now that they've got Colangelo's head on a platter, like they've succeeded in getting vengeance for Hinkie, I think it's time to move past that. And actually if I was Embiid, I would come back next season, rebranding it. I wouldn't be referring to myself as The Process, I wouldn't constantly be saying trust it, I would just let all that stuff die and turn over a new leaf. And I say that with or without LeBron. 

Sharp: I actually agree about moving on. I don't think that's the way this is going to go, at all. You had the Hinkie years as the first act, then you had the Colangelo rise and fall via burner account as the second act and then the third act is where it's going to get really weird, potentially with another superstar in there. Who knows who the GM is going to be, Markelle Fultz is working with Drew Hanlen and there's just a lot of reasons to believe and there's a lot of ways this could go wrong so I think that is going to be like the final act of The Process. And the way, like your point about Hinkie moving on is a good one but Joel Embiid just personified so much of the fragile hopes of The Process and so much of what made it so incredible when it finally came together that, as long as he's there, this is still sort of alive spiritually. I wish I didn't think about this so much or didn't know so much about it but I think that's how I feel.

Golliver: Well like compare this whole KD drama with Steph. Like he's not as beloved as Steph was and he's sort of respected but he's not cherished in the same way. If you look at LeBron going to Miami, the Heat fans really rode hard for Wade, like he was absolutely their guy, but they made room for LeBron. Like there was definitely respect and the fact that he chose them during his prime and I'm wondering if you'd have more of a KD-Steph dynamic in Philly. Like Simmons and Embiid vs. LeBron. Because a lot of LeBron's success would have to come at their expense in a way that it didn't come at Wade's expense. It's kind of similar to Kevin's rise these last couple of years and to some extent has come at Steph's expense.

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Like look no further than the Finals MVP trophy that a lot of Steph fans are sort of upset about and that you mentioned earlier and that I tried to blow off but now I'm bringing it back up because I do think that that tension would be real in Philadelphia and if I'm LeBron—even throwing aside all the Colangelo stuff—when you go to a team, you don't really want there to be any question about the pecking order and especially if you're LeBron, you want to be THE story. You want everything to be revolving around you. It's you and your sidekicks, that's sort of how it's been, right? And I'm not sure that would be the dynamic in Philadelphia.

I think Sixers fans would have such a higher level of loyalty and especially to Embiid and Simmons, but LeBron would kind of be checking in as the third favorite son and I'm not saying that's going to be a dealbreaker but I do think it will be a little bit off and it does make me question if LeBron would really choose Philly. The counter-argument would be that he hates Boston so much and he wants to be in the East and that's his best place to take down Boston and ruin Kyrie's life and extend his Finals streak and if that's what the situation comes down to, then congratulations LeBron. I just kind of think that the wanting-to-have-center-stage-all-the-time aspect of LeBron's personality will probably win out.