It has been two full years since the talk of LeBron James leaving Cleveland for potentially greener pastures first made headlines. With the free agency deadline finally upon us, the talk has come to a head and a lot of teams are very, very nervous.
Many fans are already tired of all the discussion, and understandably so, but personally I’m fascinated by it all: the rumors, the summits and the eventual ramifications LeBron’s decision will have on the league. Don’t think this stuff is important? Bloomberg recently reported that LeBron leaving the Cavaliers could cost the franchise $250 million dollars. Hope they had fun while it lasted.
In the next few days, or weeks, we will find out what franchises will be awarded early Christmas presents named Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, David Lee, Joe Johnson and which cities will end up with nothing more than a lump of coal.
And before you get all high and mighty about the decisions these gentlemen are about to make, keep in mind, it is THEIR futures. They have every right to make an educated decision about where they’d like to play. Through their hard work and god-given talent, these players have set their own market value by providing their employers with a unique service. The last time you considered a career move, didn’t you take everything, including the highest bidder, into consideration? Think of this as the same thing, just with a few more zeros.
Many think this is bad for the league, but at the beginning of every basketball season, only a handful of NBA teams have a legitimate chance to win a title. We’re about to see a seismic shift in who the odds makers list as favorites in 2011.
Several questions remain that it will take more than just a few new contracts to answer.
Is it good for the league that the inmates run the asylum? Will you be more or less interested in the NBA with three of these superstars playing on the same team?
If Lebron leaves Cleveland, is that a sign of weakness, a concession that he couldn’t get it done on his own? Is that a label he’ll ever be able to shed, even after winning elsewhere? Fair or not, he is held to a higher standard. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have eleven rings and counting and never had to leave their teams to do it.
If LeBron does leave, how will Cleveland respond when he returns in another uniform? Would they actually boo? Is that even conceivable? Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley both left Philadelphia without bringing that city a title but it is commonly perceived they gave it all they had. They’re still revered there. Would Cleveland fans feel that way about LeBron? Could they ever forgive him?
If two or three of these ‘super agents’ join forces, make it to the Finals and lose to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the Los Angeles Lakers, would the experiment be considered a failure? And if these mega-stars align, would Phil Jackson stick around for the chance to knock them off, knowing his perfect Finals record could be blemished?
If you weren’t already a Miami Heat fan, would you root for a team comprised of Wade, James and Bosh? Wouldn’t that make things too easy? It wouldn’t be like rooting for the Dream Team. It’d be like rooting for the Yankees.
If LeBron ends up in Miami, does that make Dwyane Wade the most powerful man in the NBA? Would Pat Riley fire Erik Spoelstra as he did Stan Van Gundy for the chance to once again roam the South Beach sidelines? If LeBron doesn’t sign with Chicago, do the rumors of frugal ownership hold water? If LeBron doesn’t go to the Knicks, how long before we stop calling Madison Square Garden the ‘Mecca of Basketball?’ If it’s the Mecca, why doesn’t anybody want to play there? If LeBron leaves Cleveland, how long before they contend once again? And if, after all this, he decides to stay in Cleveland, would we find his decision anticlimactic or would we feel a little bit better about ourselves?
Wherever these guys end up, with their decisions will inevitably come judgment, especially in LeBron’s case. Miami, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Cleveland, Los Angeles? Only one fan base can end up happy. For the rest, it will be back to the