Chris Haynes LeBron James Screen grab: ‘The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz’

When Chris Haynes took a job covering LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2014, he knew the opportunity was a massive one.

And while his time covering the Cavs helped catapult him from local beat writer to national insider, it didn’t go exactly as Haynes anticipated it would.

As Haynes explained on Monday’s episode of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, his arrival in Cleveland came as James was returning to the Cavs following his four-year stint with the Miami Heat. Only Haynes wasn’t sure how long he’d be covering the 4-time MVP, who was 29-years-old at the time.

“I felt like covering a major beat would be my next step to becoming a national writer,” Haynes said. “So when I took that Cleveland job when LeBron came back, I took it with the expectation that I would be covering LeBron’s downfall. I thought he was going downhill.”

As ridiculous as that might sound right now, it actually wasn’t all that far-fetched at the time. In fact, the Akron native’s first season back in Cleveland included some indications that his best days might be behind him.

“He suffered an injury midway and he missed like 15 or so games. And at that time, that was the most games he had ever missed in a season in his career,” Haynes, who is now a Senior NBA Insider at TNT and Bleacher Report, said. “So I’m like, ‘OK, this is something I can chronicle right here. Maybe I have a book.'”

The Last Days,” Le Batard suggested as a hypothetical title, laughing. “It would still be on your computer. What a miscalculation by our basketball information insider. A real expert on the league. A totally reasonable thing to think that somebody would just age like a human being ages.”

In the decade since Haynes contemplated his hypothetical book, James has led teams to five NBA Finals appearances, won two NBA championships, become the league’s all-time leading scorer and remains one of the league’s best players at 39-years-old.

And while the 4-time MVP faces an uncertain future with the Los Angeles Lakers on the brink of elimination in their first-round playoff series with the Denver Nuggets, what isn’t up for debate is that James disproved Haynes’ — and most people’s — assumptions about his career arc by 10 years — and possibly longer.

[The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.