Wednesday, June 30, 2010

LeBron, LeBron, where should LeBron go?

LeBron James has a lot going for him.

He is a mega-superstar, playing for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, who have been actual title contenders since he came to them seven years ago. He has a multi-million endorsement deal with Nike, making commercials such as this one.

And since the Cleveland Cavaliers' exit from the NBA playoffs, he has been persona numero uno in the eyes of the sporting world. And on Thursday, he officially becomes the top prize in what could be the greatest free agent in NBA history.

The courters of King James have come out, with all sorts of enticements to sign their way, including rallies in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, the New York-centric backings of and, and websites galore from fans.

So where does he sign? To date, there are six teams in serious contention for his services: the Knicks, the Nets, the Heat, the Clippers, the Bulls and of course his current team, the Cavaliers. But how much chance do each of these teams have in signing him, and should he go to any of them? Let's count the ways:

The New York Knicks
Pros: It's freaking New York, which means oodles of exposure in the media capital of the universe and sure to follow, oodles of cash. New York offers what it does in terms of a world class city, and a chance to play for one of the NBA's storied franchises.
Cons: We are talking about the Knicks, who while being of those storied franchises, are also been among the worst. Ever since the reign of Isaiah Thomas as general manager and coach, the Knickerbockers have not finished above .500 since the 2000-01 season, and have qualified for the playoffs only once since then (2003-04). Plus, thanks to Thomas, there is no way they're going to improve anytime soon.
Chances of signing: Unless LeBron is purely in it for the money, I don't like his chances of signing here.

The New Jersey Nets
Pros: It's close to freaking New York, which means oodles of exposure in the media capital of the universe and sure to follow, oodles of cash. In 2012, they are scheduled to move into a new arena in Brooklyn. Plus, their ownership includes friend and rapper Jay-Z and new majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov has promised to pump millions into his new team to make them contenders again.
Cons: They're still in New Jersey, even if they have left the Meadowlands to play in Newark for the next two years. Plus, this team stinks. They contended for the worst record in NBA history before finishing 12-70. Since last qualifying for the playoffs in 2006-07, they have been in a freefall. Even with the Mad Russian and Jay-Z, LeBron would be hard pressed to sign here.

The Miami Heat
Pros: It's Miami, one of the great and happening cities in the world. The Heat have Dwyane Wade, a free agent but much more likely to resign if LeBron comes on board. Plus, the Heat have actually been competitive, finishing 47-35 last year before bowing out of the playoffs in the first round. If LeBron signed here, the Heat might actually be title contenders
Cons: While Miami is a happening town, it also is one of the worst sports towns in the U.S. Watch any Heat game, and you're bound to see oodles of open seats, even when they're playing a noteworthy opponent. LeBron likely would not change that.

The Los Angeles Clippers
Pros: It is Los Angeles, a city that if you're looking for exposure to the media world, it's a good place to be, even if you are playing for the Clippers. The Clippers have some talent in Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin, and if the rumors are true, record mogul David Geffen wants to buy a majority share and bring in King James.
Cons: We're talking about the Clippers here, one of the most cursed franchises in sports. This is a team that Bill Simmons at continually asks each draft which top pick will get injured before his rookie season is out. Plus, they are second fiddle in their own area, playing in the purple-and-gold laden Staples Center with the Lakers, who just won their second straight title. But the big problem is the current owner, Donald Sterling, who is known for trading away talent when they actually get good and making life miserable for anybody around him, including coaches and apparently, minorities.

The Chicago Bulls
Pros: It's a world class city that is only about five hours from Akron, Ohio. It's also big enough where if you want to be a media superstar, you can. It's a chance to play where his idol Michael Jordan played, and to play on a team that would be immediate title contenders with talent like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Plus, they have the money after trading Kirk Hinrich and his $9 million salary to Washington last week.
Cons: Not really any cons, except there are no guarantees in life or sports.

The Cleveland Cavaliers
Pros: It's a chance to stay home, where he is the big dog and has been since high school. The Cavs also have some decent talent around him that has the potential to go far in the playoffs, even if one of them is an aging and declining Shaquille O'Neal. Plus, Cleveland is a nice town that is on the rise.
Cons: The leadership is a mess, with the firing of coach Mike Brown and the resignation of general manager Danny Ferry in recent weeks. Tom Izzo of Michigan State flirted with the idea of coming to Cleveland before wisely deciding to stay in East Lansing. Plus, while there is talent on this roster, it should have produced already. Instead, it has faltered, including losing in the conference semifinals despite having the league's best record at 61-21.

The verdict: I would say Chicago and Cleveland have the edge, especially with one report saying LeBron and Chris Bosh to the Bulls is a "done deal."

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