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Unpopular Opinion: It’s time for Ohio State to move on LeBron James

As the NBA legend’s professional career winds down, the school he never went to doesn’t need to give him so many benefits.

Ohio State University vs University of Michigan Set Number: SI628 TK1

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about what we would do if we were in charge of our favorite position group, team, conference, or sport. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all our “Unpopular Opinion” articles here.

Before I write anything in this article, I should be completely transparent about my feelings. I’m not a LeBron James fan. I respect his achievements and some of the incredible moments he has created during his legendary NBA career, I’m just not going to cheer for him. This has nothing to do with China, thinking he needs to “shut up and dribble”, or any other political reason.

There was a time when I was a LeBron stan. A few years after I moved down to Columbus, the Cavaliers played the Spurs in the NBA Finals. The run by James to carry Cleveland to the finals was outstanding, and I was hoping he would be able to take the Cavs back there, especially since that would likely mean they would beat Boston, which is a city I hate everything about.

Instead, the Celtics beat Cleveland in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals. A couple months later LeBron would announce he was taking his talents to South Beach. If “The Decision” wasn’t hard enough to stomach, it happened on my birthday. From that day, LeBron was on my shit list. Not that he cares since he is like a billionaire and I’m a nobody, but when I hold a grudge, it’s for life.

LeBron has always said that if he had to play college basketball before heading to the NBA, he would have gone to Ohio State. While he says that, I’m not totally convinced that would have been the case. Not that Ohio State wasn’t a marquee basketball program, just look at some of the top recruits Thad Matta brought into the program over the years. I just think he would have thought a little harder than he says he would have about going to Duke, Kentucky, or another blue blood program.

Luckily for LeBron it wasn’t an issue he ever had to deal with, since it was obvious there was no need for him to play college basketball for any length of time.

There’s no questioning that LeBron is an Ohio State fan. We have seen him either at big Buckeye games, or tweeting about them if he couldn’t make it. There have been times where James has gifted items to Ohio State players, and he even has an honorary locker at the facility. It’s a smart move by Ohio State to highlight their relationship with him, since it could make a difference as they vie for some of the top recruits in the country.

You just know that Gene Smith and Chris Holtmann were hoping the relationship with LeBron would help Ohio State land James’ oldest son, Bronny. While the Buckeyes made Bronny’s top-three, he eventually committed to USC. Even though Holtmann is bringing in a very strong recruiting class, adding Bronny to it would have been huge for the Ohio State basketball program.

2023 McDonald’s All American Game Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

Honestly though, I’m not mad that Ohio State wasn’t able to land Bronny’s commitment. Even though his father is a huge Buckeye fan, Bronny can’t go to Ohio State just for that reason. He has to do what he feels is best for him. Plus, I can understand how it would be hard to leave Los Angeles after spending the last few years there while LeBron has played for the Lakers. It’s a perfect spot for Bronny if LeBron doesn’t follow through with retirement talk, since he’ll still be close to his father.

Really what I think we don’t need any more is things like the LeBron/Ohio State jerseys, his own locker at the facility, and as much association between him and the school. He’s a fan, no different than you or I. The only difference is he has the ability to give a lot more money to the school if he wants to. It’s not like he’s going to be as big of a fan in the near future either, since you know he’ll be rooting for USC because of Bronny. Plus, I have to imagine we are likely going to see him on the sidelines of a USC football game this year before he is at an Ohio State game.

LeBron has done a lot of great things for the state of Ohio and Ohio State. It’s time for everyone to move on, though. The athletic department in Columbus will survive just fine without giving LeBron any preferential treatment. I’m never going to tell him not to be a Buckeye fan, but if he wants field passes or some of those sweet seats that were likely given to him, then he can break out the checkbook. Maybe transfer that LeBron locker at the facility into one for Mike Conley or another Buckeye that actually played here and went on to see success at the professional level.