Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nate On Sports: LeGone? The LeBron James Situation

Last Thursday night, the Boston Celtics killed the Cleveland Cavaliers' season. As bad as that was (and still is) for Cleveland, there's a pretty good chance that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you haven't been paying attention, LeBron James will become a free agent on the first of July this summer. Chances are, though, that you knew about that. Alien lifeforms from three galaxies away probably know that LeBron James is a free agent this summer. ESPN already has a "Bottom Line" segment that exists for the sole purpose of reporting every single bit of news directly and indirectly involved with LeBron James and his impending free agency.

Yes, it seems a bit ridiculous. But, truth be told, this is a pretty freaking big deal. Here's a statistical outline of what LeBron James will bring to the table for one lucky NBA franchise:

15,251 points (or 27.8 per game) in seven NBA seasons
3861 rebounds (or 7.1 per game)
3810 assists (or 7.0 per game)

In other words, a guy that could legitimately put up a triple-double any night he steps on the court. Let's not forget he's now won back-to-back MVPs, either. Or about how he's a global marketing phenomenon - a moneymaking machine. Or that he's just a pretty good guy, without any major legal or ethical transgressions to the best of our awareness (and in this day in age, you can't underestimate this at all.) Oh, and did I mention that he is 25 years old? That's a pretty scary proposition for the 29 teams unable to land him this summer, seeing that most professional basketball players hit their prime in their late 20s.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have this right now. They have THIS guy. A guy that could potentially go down as the greatest basketball player of all time. And in six short weeks, they could very well lose him.

There are a lot of factors at work here. Cleveland hasn't exactly helped its cause by failing to build a legitimate contender around LeBron. I will fully admit that I expected the Antawn Jamison trade to work out much better than it did - and considering the price of the move, it was one they had to make (and one that didn't necessarily hurt them.) But Cleveland failed miserably in its attempt to supply a Robin to James' Batman. Jamison is a good #3 guy. Shaquille O'Neal is probably a #4 anymore on a good day. Mo Williams? One of the most overrated players in the league. How this guy was an All-Star is beyond me; every time I watched him he was an out-of-control chucker who didn't deserve to start, let alone be a #2 guy.

To further complicate Cleveland's chances of resigning James, other teams around the league have positioned themselves financially to give themselves a legitimate shot of signing him, in addition to another "name" player. New York, New Jersey, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Chicago Bulls are the names that pop up the most frequently. Now, with the exception of Chicago (who is mediocre at best right now), all those teams stink. However, all of those teams have 1.) much brighter lights than Cleveland does and 2.) a chance to start (relatively) fresh, unlike Cleveland, which will have nowhere near the maneuverability this off-season . It's debatable how much weight James places on these two points; however, they are two aspects that could only work to enhance New York, New Jersey, or Chicago's chances (I'm going to eliminate the Clippers as a serious contender - they are the Clippers, after all.)

Another piece of the puzzle is with regards to James' entourage of associates and friends. Recently, reports have come out that basketball power broker William Wesley (aka "World Wide Wes") is attempting to package LeBron and Kentucky Coach John Calipari together to a specific team (the Bulls are the rumored team.) This makes sense, considering James' and Calipari's personal relationship with each other. It is also well-known that James is buds with Jay-Z, who happens to be a minority owner for the New Jersey (and soon to be Brooklyn) Nets. So it's also conceivable that James would want to go play for his buddy. On a larger scale, however, James has a goal of becoming a global cultural icon, which would seem to be more achievable in a larger market, such as New York.

So, as can be seen, there are a lot of variables at work here. I don't have the slightest clue as to what will happen. I suppose if I had to give odds today, they'd go like this: Chicago - 30%, Cleveland - 25%, New York - 25%, New Jersey - 15%, and everyone else - 5%. Cleveland is by no means out of this, and LeBron seems like the kind of guy that would like to really build a legacy in one place - especially one that's in his home state. I have to think, though, that Cleveland's odds would have been much higher had they actually found a way to win the whole thing.

And you have to feel sorry for the fans of Cleveland for having to go through something like this. It's not their fault that Danny Ferry (the Cavs GM) couldn't build a good enough team around LeBron. It's not their fault that the Indians suck, and the Browns are perpetually hopeless. If LeBron James does leave, they will have nothing in a professional sports sense.

Last Thursday night the Boston Celtics killed the Cleveland Cavaliers' season. We'll soon see, however, if they ended up killing the chances of LeBron James staying in Cleveland, and subsequently, the hopes and dreams of all Cleveland fans hoping to embrace a champion again.

(Publisher's Note....This article does not represent the views (regarding Cleveland hopes) of the Browns-loving publisher!)

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