On the John
Keeping it all in house
Originally completed July 8, 2010
Let’s talk about LeBron, the Bulls, NBA super teams, free agent decision-making, corporate sports, intimate relationships, and the future of professional athletics.
It happens today. After many moons, after many false scoops, LeBron James tells everyone who cares where he will be balling for the next few years.
Where’s he signing? That question has been traveling two years to get here. And now it’s here. And you have to say. Call it…
Forget the Clippers. No point in joining The Other L.A. when your three best power forward mates have already committed to other cities. Forget the Nets too, at least for now: why hang in Newark for two years when you could sign a three-year deal any place else and then dip for Brooklyn when Brooklyn’s ready?
That leaves four teams: the Bulls, the Cavs, the Heat, the Knicks. I give the Bulls an edge over New York for “roster closest to winning” because of Noah + Deng/whatever-we-get-for-Deng. That breakdown also depends on what kind of coach LeBron prefers, and it’s a pretty stark difference: a rookie, defensive coach or a veteran, offensive coach?
The Bulls were ahead of the Cavs in talent even before the Boozer signing; getting Stoudemire now puts the Knicks over Cleveland as well. LeBron knows this – if he’d been serious about staying in Cleveland, he would have recruited these guys the way Wade did with Miami.
Additionally, if he were staying, wouldn’t he announce in Cleveland?
So the Cavs are probably out. Leaving us, Miami, or New York. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but in that scenario, I hope he goes with New York. Just imagine, in the summer of 1990, Jordan conducting a one-hour television special to announce his leaving Chicago. That would be awful. I felt bad enough for Cleveland fans following their Game 6 loss… I’d rather not be among the guilty, especially when I am set to attend a wedding in Columbus end of July…
And what a waste if he goes to Miami. I can’t imagine that would work – it’s not simply the problem of filling seven to nine roster spots with quality role players, but also the problem of team cohesion over 100+ games and nine months.
Teams can succeed with social cliques; think of the famous S.I. cover with Jordan, Pippen, Harper, and Burrell playing cards, and take a peep at a smiling Bill Wennington in the back, hamming it up with (presumably) Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler, and maybe Randy Brown.
And it’s fine to acknowledge a “Big 2,” (Jordan/Pippen), “Big 3” (’08 Celtics) or even “Big 4” (’04 Lakers), so long as the team is sturdily built all the way through.
But a James-Wade-Bosh teaming would create The Heat and The Other Heat, and the division in social clique AND star status AND talent AND contracts might be too much for those other guys to handle.
Consider the wise words of Coach K, (3:49) discussing the flaw inherent in Michigan’s Fab Five: “We felt that we were more of a team. It wasn’t five of us. It was 12 of us. I’m not sure that a team should ever take on the character of a group within the team. I felt that that was one of the main reasons why it never achieved a national championship.”
That about sums it up. Simmons did a wonderful job breaking down the What It Might All Mean details, (complete with a gruesomely impressive capper), so there is no need to re-hash. When James makes his announcement, I will be in a theatre with my parents celebrating my father’s 60th birthday. I’m expecting texts from all you good people, and lots of them. Stay tuned, for real.
As for “us,” I just hope that Chicago fans and media don’t over react should James not choose the Bulls. This ain’t 2000, that suicidal death dance of “Duncan and Hill! I mean… Duncan and McGrady! I mean… McGrady! Err… Eddie Jones! Uhh… Ron Mercer!” The 2001 Bulls were a mess. The 2011 Bulls without LeBron James will compete for the East title, ESPECIALLY if James boofs up and goes for The Trio in Miami.
Assuming, that is, he goes for it long-term. But what if he takes the money in Miami for two or three years just to have a ball playing SuperTeam with his buddies, and then orchestrates a sign-and-trade to the Nets for max loot and a stint in Brooklyn? Why not? And what if he wins a ring in Brooklyn and decides to conquer Manhattan or Los Angeles?
We almost saw this with Deion Sanders. But he settled on Dallas and that was that. And in a way, we saw it with Jordan (and Jackson/Rodman), back when Reinsdorf was re-signing the troops to mercenary contracts in ’97 and ’98.
LeBron becoming a true gun-for-hire is the logical next step in the cheering-for-laundry era, ain’t it? Such floozy behavior might even quell Cleveland’s feeling of abandonment. You could even see it becoming the trend for younger players who would band together behind their new creed: “It’s 2011. No one plays for a team.”
Indeed. If one can reasonably deride as nonsense the act of declaring fan allegiance to a single team your entire life simply because you live in the corresponding city, (and one can), does it make any sense at all for an athlete under 25 to commit to a professional team and its fans simply because they happened to draft him? We’re not Cameron Frye out here, marrying the first girl we lay. You have to date some, yes?
I’d say so. Maybe LeBron feels he’s been dating the Cavaliers for seven years, and that’s enough. Maybe he wants to sew some oats. Maybe he wants to search for a compatible woman, to have and to hold and to win championships together. Maybe he wishes his hometown team never won the lottery to begin with back in ’03, so that this moment would never come.
David Stern has stated publicly his hopes that LeBron would stay in Cleveland. “It’s been great having LeBron in Cleveland,” Stern said earlier this season. “Hopefully he’ll stay. That’s the way the system was designed.”
But that’s on the record, with the fans listening. Are Stern and his league really invested in LeBron staying in Cleveland? Or Wade in Miami, Joe Johnson in Atlanta, Nowitzki in Dallas, Pierce in Boston? Jersey sales, merch sales, A.D.D. television matchups, promotion, and rabid, renewed interest… doesn’t the League always benefit when players are moving?
The story coming into last season was player movement. Big names on big teams. Artest, Shaq, Vince, Marion, Sheed, and then Jamison mid-season. Shaquille going to Los Angeles, Malone/Payton going to Los Angeles, Garnett/Allen going to Boston, Rodman going to Chicago, Barkley to Phoenix, Barkley to Houston, McGrady/Hill to Orlando, the Kidd-Marbury trade, the Webber-Richmond trade… transactions are the NBA’s fuel.
I would imagine Stern is much more concerned with LeBron embracing his “global icon” challenge by signing with a team overseas, be it in Russia, Greece, Israel, Spain, Germany…
Doesn’t really matter where he ended up. Losing LeBron to The World would be like Gretzky taking hockey to Los Angeles, or Beckham taking soccer/football to America and the MLS (and Los Angeles).
Where’s he signing? He’s resigning with the NBA. In this world, that’s the only team that matters.
Copyright 2010, jm silverstein
More on LeBron from Jack M Silverstein:
May 14, 2010: The Waste Land
April 26, 2010: Shot through the heart
April 23, 2010: King Crane Fly James battles the Bulls
April 18, 2010: Enjoying the show in the NBA playoffs
April 13, 2010: Let them eat Cubs
June 1, 2009: More than just a puppet