NBA

LeBron James Could Have Won Championships With Michigan State’s Tom Izzo

LeBron James, throughout his career, has been more successful than almost every player to ever play in the NBA. He has won three NBA championships and is the third-leading scorer in NBA history. However, James has not played for that one great Hall of Fame coach like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant got to with Phil Jackson, or how Tim Duncan got to with Gregg Popovich. James almost had a chance to do that, though. James almost could have played under Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.

LeBron James left the Cavaliers for the Heat in 2010

From 2003-04 through 2009-10, LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to some of the highest heights that that franchise had ever seen. He was off to a historic start in his career individually too. James earned an All-Star selection in each of those seasons but his first. He also led the league in scoring in 2007-08 and won the league’s MVP award in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

James also led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals for the first time ever during the 2006-07 season, and he helped the Cavaliers win the most games they ever have in a regular season in 2008-09 as they went 66-16. They then followed that up by winning 61 in the next season too.

However, the team could not figure out how to win a championship. The organization continuously failed to get James sufficient help to put them in a position to win it all. This led to James leaving the Cavaliers in the summer of 2010 for the Miami Heat. As you probably know, James ultimately won two championships with the Heat and then came back and won one with the Cavaliers in 2016 before going to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018.

Tom Izzo is one of the greatest college coaches of all-time

Since the 1995-96 season, Tom Izzo has helped Michigan State become one of the most respected college basketball programs in the Big Ten Conference, and in the entire country. In his fourth season in 1998-99, Izzo helped lead Michigan State to the Final Four. The Spartans then won the national championship the next season in 1999-2000.

Izzo and Michigan State have since had more success than almost every college basketball program in the country, and certainly every program in the Big Ten. He has helped them reach eight Final Fours and two national championship games. The Spartans have also won one national championship under Izzo and have had 22 NCAA Tournament appearances in total. Additionally, they have ultimately won 628 games together.

However, Izzo almost left Michigan State for the Cleveland Cavaliers once. 

Izzo almost coached James on the Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James and Tom Izzo have both done great things for the sport of basketball. They could have won championships together, though.
(L-R) LeBron James and Tom Izzo | Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images; Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

With the possibility of LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers becoming more and more likely in 2010, especially after the team failed to win a championship again, the organization tried to make some big moves. This was with the hope of luring James back to Cleveland. 

The Cavaliers first fired head coach Mike Brown. Then, the organization offered Tom Izzo a five-year, $30 million deal to be the team’s coach, according to ESPN. Izzo contemplated the deal too. However, he ultimately rejected it. One reason he turned it down was that he was unable to speak to LeBron James, according to ESPN, so he had no idea if James was going to stay with the Cavaliers, or leave (like he ultimately did).

“That was one of the key factors, 100 percent true,” Izzo said, according to ESPN. “That was not the only factor. Was it a big factor? Sure.”

Tom Izzo

So, what if James had talked to Izzo and then ended up staying in Cleveland? Would Izzo have come to the Cavaliers? If that had happened, the sky would have been the limit for James and Izzo. 

LeBron James is one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game. Tom Izzo is one of the greatest basketball coaches to ever coach the game. Had the two paired up, James and Izzo could have done some special things for the Cleveland Cavaliers. This includes winning the organization multiple championships. However, we will never know how successful they could have been together. Instead, we can only ask, “What if?”