The Sixers & LeBron: ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.’

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James points toward the crowd during warmups for the team’s NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, March 22, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

All offseason, rumors have flown regarding the Philadelphia 76ers as the team prepares to once again go on the hunt for a star. Having been linked to every star from Paul George to Donovan Mitchell to Brandon Ingram, the Sixers were again connected to a big name Monday morning.

Joining “Get Up” to discuss the latest around the NBA, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided the latest smoke surrounding the Sixers:

I think when you look at the options, I think the Lakers are still in very, very strong position. I would be surprised if he’s not a Laker.

But it is fair to point out that Daryl Morey has been trying to sign LeBron for a decade now, multiple different opportunities. And of the teams that have a chance to win the championship next year, the only team with cap space that could offer LeBron a max contract is the 76ers; other teams could do signing trades, but the Lakers wouldn’t have to cooperate [with the 76ers]. The 76ers are a threat. I don’t think they’re a serious threat, but certainly, in the NBA, you never rule anything out.

Before delving too deeply into Windy’s words, it’s worth noting that LeBron James is a target worth pursuing.

Despite the fact that last year was his age 39 season, James once again thrived and was among the NBA’s most dominant, being named to his 20th consecutive All-NBA team. It could quite easily be argued that he is the best option “available” when considering ability and cost.

Again, I refer you to his 20th consecutive All-NBA appearance as proof of LeBron as a current talent. While he may not be the stalwart defensive he was in his prime, he remains more than capable when engaged and enjoyed the third-most efficient season of his career last year.

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, goes up for a shot against Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

He may not play all 82, but that is likely for the best. His personality may also be a bit unserious at times, which would not be well received in Philadelphia. Still, there is no legitimate argument that LeBron, assuming he’s locked in as he always is come the postseason, could be a major contributor for the Sixers.

As far as the price is concerned, while he would almost certainly be signed for max money, LeBron would not cost any draft capital and is not expected to play for another four full years, though the man himself has left that door wide open. Even if he does play that long, as long as his drop-off remains gradual, the Sixers would expectedly remain competitive.

A bit less of a true factor, but still one worth mentioning, is that he also has an affinity for the Sixer’s two stars, Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, left, and Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid talk during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

All of that is well and good, and perhaps we can all agree now that LeBron James would be a quality addition to the Philadelphia 76ers. However, that is not the question at hand, which remains whether or not he would actually come to Philadelphia.

Fans will certainly remember back in the summer of 2018 when rumors were flying that LeBron was deciding between the Lakers and the Sixers. There were even rumors that came from inside the franchise’s own house that LeBron was scouting local private schools for his kids. While that did not turn out to be the case, there was still a reason for hope for the 76ers that one of the greatest players to ever grace the court might come to play for their historically significant yet longsuffering franchise.

Though Los Angeles was the heavy favorite, Philadelphia was the only team other than the Lakers who secured a meeting. That excitement quickly fizzled as it became known that LeBron was not, in fact, meeting with the Sixers but merely sent his representation and then announced he would be headed to Hollywood mere hours later.

Remember that moment Philadelphia? Remember the pain? The disrespect?

Now, while a fan would certainly be well within their right to hold this against the all-timer, this is not a reason to thumb your nose at LeBron should he come knocking. This is, however, a useful reminder that Philadelphia has heard this song and dance before.

LeBron, or to be more accurate, his representation, continues to use the Sixers as leverage, as Paul George has been as Jimmy Butler has been, as every player does against nearly every team. This is one of the most common negotiation tactics in sports and will remain so long after we are gone. This does not mean that there is no chance LeBron will spur the Lakers in a scenario in which they refuse his demands, but it is an indication that his heart belongs to LA.

If all else were equal, LeBron James would choose the Lakers, Paul George would choose the Clippers, and Jimmy Butler would choose the Heat. Creating the amount of cap space Philadelphia has is supposed to be the secret weapon against that, but a team as desperate as the Lakers will not go down without a fight.

That has also been the prevailing feeling from those connected closely to LeBron’s camp.

Returning to Brian Windhort’s earlier words, what fans and aggregators across the landscape ran with was the idea that the Philadelphia 76ers are a threat to land LeBron and that they are the only other team that can provide him with both a chance to win and a max contract, which, in their defense, Windhorst did say. What they conveniently ignored was what Windhorst himself explained multiple times, namely, how unlikely it is that LeBron will leave Los Angeles.

I think the Lakers are still in a very, very strong position.” “I would be surprised if he’s not a Laker.” “I don’t think [the 76ers are] a serious threat

This is the crux of Windhorst’s message. While it can never be doubted that Daryl Morey will pursue a player, as Windhorst pointed out, it simply does not guarantee that a player, including LeBron James, will sign with Philadelphia.

While the notion of signing LeBron James is certainly intriguing, it simply does not hold water based on everything that has occurred between 2018 and the present day. This is simply a warning to fans to guard their hearts and not let themselves be fooled again.

“Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. For me… you can’t get fooled again.” — George W. Bush