The Getting LeBron James Debate… A Big Apple Shaped King’s Crown

June 30, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

Living near Cleveland, and near LeBron James’ hometown of Akron, allow me to go on the record and say that I am disgusted with LeBron James.

I have written several pieces on LeBron throughout the last NBA season and post-season. I have also done several radio appearances where I genuinely voice dismay at James’ decision-making. It has become apparent to me now, on the eve of “The Decision” or “The Meetings” or whatever dumb name ESPN will slap on it, that LeBron James will respond to the strongest pitch he receives – and that pitch will come from the New York Knicks.

The Knicks essentially have to overcome two nuanced but primary advantages over LeBron’s stated frontrunner, the Cavaliers.

First, the hometown effect. I could bore everyone by stating the obvious advantages of living in New York versus living in Cleveland, but I think we all get that. Of course, LeBron does have strong ties to northeast Ohio, and those cannot be dismissed. But New York offers tremendous advantages that start with an unparalleled nightlife and an endless stream of admirers with the business opportunities LeBron covets. Sure the hometown is important, and I am sure the Knicks would allow for relocation for his entire family to New York in a few swanky downtown lofts… complete with Jay-Z rapping something about how home is where the heart is. New York has an edge here, if the reps play the diplomacy game properly. And I am sure they will.

Second, we all know that economics play a factor here. While it is true the Cavs can offer LeBron the most money, what is often left on the editing floor of virtually every story published on the subject is that Cleveland can only win the money game if LeBron were to sign a long term – six year – contract.

Since business thinking is driving this entire enterprise right now, I highly doubt that LeBron will sign a six year deal, no matter where he signs. That would mean he would be ineligible for free agency until he is 31-years old. We all know why this is such a big decision… because LeBron will play his prime years under the next deal. But it is just bad business to sign a six year deal. A three year deal means he can get max money from anywhere – the same amount. That neutralizes any Cavs financial advantage.

New York representatives can easily overcome any Cleveland advantage with a well crafted pitch. New York cannot be Cleveland or Akron, but it can host the people that make LeBron feel at home. New York cannot offer as much money, but it can offer the same amount of money – and a very enticing world where business and pleasure off the court are easily accomplished. New York also offers a connection to basketball’s history that is an X factor for a guy like LeBron who really does care about, and have respect for, the history of the game.

New York also has enough money to add at least one more high priced free agent, and likely another mid-level talent. New York sure has a lot of roster holes – a fact the brass does not back away from – but it sure has the space to make some key additions. LeBron and Joe Johnson, and one more talented player, is plenty of firepower. It is enough to remind us all of a move Boston made a few years ago. Should the New York representatives include that model in their presentation, it is hard to argue with the success.

Plus, if New York does not get LeBron, they will get some other big free agents. LeBron would have to choose to join them, or fight against them every chance he gets. I am guessing the New York brass may bring that up, depending on how the pitch interaction goes.

In a recent radio appearance I told ESPN radio’s insightful and entertaining Matt McClusky that LeBron had a decision to make between becoming a championship professional basketball player and becoming a global business and marketing icon. I wrote an article for The Sports Debates about LeBron choosing to remain in Cleveland, and that if he did, he would be choosing a real shot at a championship.

Choosing New York as his destination means choosing his business ambitions over basketball – and all of the distractions that come with it. While Michael Jordan won first and then began closing business deals, LeBron’s business ambition outpaces everything else. Whether it is selfishness or greed or both, neither is part of the formula for winning a championship.

So while I go on the record yet again stating that New York is the wrong choice for LeBron, I firmly intend to eat crow tomorrow on that statement. I expect LeBron to choose New York over Cleveland, to choose business over authentic, championship success. And while a chorus of “good riddance” rises from Akron, Ohio, New York is getting an incredibly talented, incredibly selfish basketball player that will tease fans with close calls – but never deliver when it counts. Cleveland has suffered enough on those types of outcomes.

To LeBron, I offer just one piece of advice – bring earplugs when you return to The Q… and when you return home for Thanksgiving.

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The Getting LeBron James Debate… Show Me the Money

June 30, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

The future of LeBron James is a topic we have debated regularly on this site. Our most recent edition debated the team that would provide the best fit for LeBron.

When the city of Cleveland was brought into the conversation, Sports Geek wrote about the various business aspects of why LeBron should stay in Cleveland, and pointing them all back to one single point – Cleveland gives LeBron the best chance to win a championship.

Obviously, that statement is debatable (especially in light of the latest rumors that Miami could be poised to sign Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, AND LeBron). What is not debatable, however, and what ultimately leaves the city of Cleveland in the absolute BEST position to keep LeBron is this: No other team can offer LeBron James the long term salary that the Cavaliers can.

I know that LeBron talks about wanting to play in a city that gives him the best opportunity to win a championship, but every single team in the NBA can make an attempt at that argument. What those teams cannot do is pay him.

LeBron James could make as much as $30M EXTRA by staying in Cleveland. For him to leave the Cavaliers and play somewhere else, he would essentially be PAYING $30M just for what he PERCEIVES as a better opportunity to win a championship.

Is LeBron James at a point in his career where he is so DESPERATE for a championship that he would actually sacrifice $30M that was on the table to get it? I don’t think so.

If we are still having this conversation in another ten years, and LeBron STILL has not won a championship, then I think his level of desperation would put him in the mindset that sacrificing money for the legacy of a ring would be worth it.

That is not the case today.

LeBron James is only 25-years old, and is the most talented player in the NBA. He has won back-to-back league MVP awards, and no matter where he ends up playing basketball, that team will be a postseason threat.<br.

There can be no denying that LeBron James has a very bright basketball future STILL ahead of him, and that he will remain in contention to win a championship every single season of his career no matter WHAT jersey he wears. Time is not yet running out for LeBron, and he knows that.

While he may be hungry to win that first championship, it is a mistake to classify him as desperate.

As much as LeBron talks about wanting to win a championship, or loyalty, or any of that other fluff, his motivating factor is and always has been his ego (I don’t mean to imply any negative connotation from that). As with all of us, LeBron is going to make the decision that best serves him. Every choice he makes will be made to provide maximum boost to his already well-established legacy.

While he has publicly stated a desire to win a championship, he has ALSO publicly stated that he wants to be a billionaire athlete, and that comes only one way – making as much money as possible, as quickly as possible.

For LeBron James, there is only ONE team in the NBA that gives him the opportunity to meet BOTH of those goals – the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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The Getting LeBron James Debate… The Windy City Has the Upper Hand

June 30, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek.

Tomorrow is July 1, 2010. Yep, I have a calendar on my desk, so I am privy to this information. I also watch a lot of sports television, so I know how big of a sports day tomorrow supposedly is. If you don’t, where have you been?

Tomorrow starts a period of time that promises to change the landscape of the NBA. Almost on a daily basis we are hearing rumors about which team will get the top free agents and who is going with them. Almost all of these involve Lebron James in some way. LeBron James is perhaps the most heavily debated player in this Web site’s 13 month existence. That will continue today as we debate which team is positioned best to acquire his services. My article comes with a little bit of doubt, as Miami will possibly be able to sway LeBron with the Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh package. But, I still argue that Chicago is best positioned.

Obviously, to be able to go after James, a team has to not only be willing to spend the cash it would take to bring him and his headband to town, but a team also must have the necessary salary cap room. Chicago has that. It became to clear to all of us last week that the Bulls were clearing cap room to make a big splash in free agency by trading Kirk Hinrich to the Washington Wizards (though it can’t be announced until July 8). That trade gave the Bulls close to $30M to spend on free agents, which is almost enough to sign not only one, but two players to maximum contracts.

The team that LeBron would be coming to is loaded with young talent and ready to make a run at multiple championships. He knows this all too well as the Cavs played the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs this past season, and the Bulls actually played them tough. The current roster includes a young All-Star in Derrick Rose, and young solid players in Joakim Noah and Luol Deng (who is a six year veteran, but still only 26). This does not even include the second player that the Bulls could sign in addition to James. Possibilities include Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, and others. Can you imagine a starting lineup that included James, Bosh, Rose, and Noah? They would immediately elevate to the top of the Eastern Conference and would be a serious threat to dethrone the Lakers next season. At least on paper, that is.

Many experts have stated that LeBron would be interested in going to Chicago because of the Michael Jordan factor. James is on record as saying he idolizes Number 23, so much that he is actually going to give up his own jersey number to pay respect to the man he calls the greatest basketball player ever (and many of us agree). He has seen stories about Jordan and about how Chicago is a great sports town and how they embrace a winner. If James seeks out advice from M.J. and M.J. nudges him toward Chicago, then James would definitely take that into consideration.

The bottom line is that LeBron wants to win (Editor’s Note: Or be rich?), and he wants to surround himself with a winning team. Playing in Chicago with the young talent they already have in place in addition to another free agent prize would be the best possible winning situation for him. Chicago remains the front runner in the LeBron James sweepstakes.

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