As the blue and gold confetti fell upon the Golden State Warriors after they defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the NBA Championship for the third time in four years, the conversation had already begun to shift to where then-free agent James would land next season.
When James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010, in a move famously televised as “The Decision,” the entire basketball world was shocked. Some Cavs fans were angry, famously choosing to burn James’s jersey, while those in South Beach were ecstatic, taking to the streets to celebrate.
The year before, Cristiano Ronaldo’s move from Manchester United to Real Madrid was met with similar reverberations throughout the global soccer community.
Known for their athletic prowess and success on the basketball court and soccer field, respectively, James and Ronaldo are once again entering a new era in their careers. James will be heading to Los Angeles to join the ranks of the Lakers where he hopes to bring glory once again to the city of basketball legends Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and more. Ronaldo, on the other hand, will follow in the footsteps of Juventus icons like Andrea Pirlo, Alessandro del Piero and Zinedine Zidane. At a time when fans may expect James and Ronaldo to slow down, these stars seem to be even more motivated to continue winning and to elevate their status to even higher levels than seemingly imaginable.
To say Ronaldo and James are both used to the spotlight is an understatement of the highest order. Over the years, it has become evident that the two don’t just live in the spotlight; they thrive in it. James was drafted with the first overall pick fresh out of high school by the Cavaliers, while Ronaldo joined one of the biggest clubs in the world in Manchester United when he was just 18. Since joining the NBA in 2003, James has won three NBA titles and three Finals MVP awards. Since joining Manchester United also in 2003, Ronaldo has won five UEFA Champions League titles and collected five FIFA Ballon D’or awards. Ronaldo and James have both been the most important cogs of their respective teams — Ronaldo has proven that he can provide the scoring touch when needed (sometimes flashy, sometimes not), while James’s unrelenting tenacity means he can block a shot at one end of the court, and then hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating shot at the other end in the playoffs. While James’s and Ronaldo’s achievements and hard work speak for themselves, many still continue to compare each to legends of their games, and doubt the possibility of continued success for these two once-in-a-lifetime talents.
Ronaldo and James are both 33 years of age. Both have been heavily scrutinized and compared to their peers their entire careers. Both have incredibly strong personalities, remain slightly controversial figures and both have had enormous success. For James, the world will be asking, can he deliver his fourth NBA title and restore glory and fame to the Lakers franchise? For Ronaldo, can he take Serie A and Juventus back to the days of international prominence and European domination?
Both teams have rich legacies of success, but are trying to rebuild to restore their teams to greatness on the global stage. The Lakers have a very young squad, one that many argue is not yet ready to challenge for an NBA title. For Juventus, team legends Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Barzagli have moved on and teams such as Napoli and Roma have begun to snap at their heels. There are many answers that remain to be seen about the future of the Lakers and Juventus. One thing is for certain now, though. Both these teams have crowned their new kings.
At just 18 years old, both James and Ronaldo were thrust into the spotlight and have never looked back. Now, they’ll be taking their talents to unfamiliar territories and hoping to build upon their own legacies — and those of their new clubs.
Email Bela Kirpalani at [email protected]