Considering the Cavs were hit by a predator drone named the Celtics, the LeBron James free agent blitz has officially begun. From the president's proclamation (he's rooting for the Bulls) to fans’ prayers to gifts of the flesh (one New York strip club is offering lap dances for life), everybody wants Basketball Jesus to set up his mighty ministry inside their city limits.
I’m sure LeBron has friends, family members, agents, business managers, janitors, old teammates, current teammates, potentially new teammates all yapping in his ear saying: You should do this.
LeBron doesn’t need any of that. He needs somebody honest, trustworthy, smart and sincere, somebody like me, who can present the cold facts and let him choose what's best.
So, LeBron, here’s my even-handed, bias-free analysis for you – because I know you care deeply about what I think. You can thank me later with bling of your choosing.
Based on the enormous salary package required to sign you, it seems there are only five NBA franchises that have realistic shots at obtaining your services for the 2010-11 season – and beyond. Let’s take a look at each of the suitors and their respective pros and cons.
New York Knicks
Pros: You’d immediately become King of the biggest city in America. The Knicks landing Patrick Ewing in 1985 was a huge deal. This would eclipse it, exponentially. You’d hold court in the World’s Most Famous Arena. You'd play on a storied franchise hungry for a restoration. You'd get to play in front of Matthew Modine, I mean come on. It’s been said that nobody loves a winner more than New Yorkers – you’d get to live that dream.
Cons: Your supporting cast is more court jester than dukes and earls. There’s a possibility the Knicks could also land Dwayne Wade, but he’d have to settle for less than he could get in Miami. Since he’s bogged down in more costly legal disputes than British Petroleum at the moment, he might have to seek the maximum in Florida. Ultimately, I’d hesitate before going to a place where you wouldn’t have an immediate opportunity to win a title. You’re still young, of course, but how many more seasons do you want to deal with mediocrity? The point is, you don’t have to. Not now.
New Jersey Nets
Pros: They’ll give you anything and everything. They’ll build the entire team around you. Hell, they’ll build the entire stadium around you. You can pick the coach, the GM, the lockerroom carpet, the valet guy. Everything will be built to your specifications and desires – and it will be the roster you want. This would become your team.
Cons: Same void-of-talent problem as New York – but much worse. Betty White would have had a triple double against the Nets this past season, and you can’t overcome that all by yourself. In addition, the Nets will never truly capture the hearts and minds of New York fans. You’ll always play for the junior varsity. New York will always love the Yankees more than the Mets, the Giants more than the Jets, the Rangers more than the Islanders and the Knicks more than the Nets. It’s just a fact.
Pros: No moving truck required. It’s your adopted hometown. You’ll stay beloved and revered. You’ll be on your way to doing what the rare greats have done – Mantle, Elway, Williams, Magic, Bird, Ripken – by playing their careers in only one city. And, perhaps most importantly, nobody can ever say: Well, LeBron just took off when he couldn’t get it done here. He didn’t stay and fix it. Things got hard, and he left. That would be very hard on your legacy, and you have to take that into consideration. Perhaps it’s not fair but with this recent flameout, people are now doubting your ability to get it done in the postseason. If you leave Cleveland, you could be accused of abandoning your team.
Cons: Is it really working in Cleveland? Do you really love playing there? Or would you like to play for a big market team? No knocks on Cleveland – I’ll let Joakim Noah handle that – but Cleveland is still a smaller city when you compare the other contenders. Do you find it limiting? Do you want to go to a major market and thrive?
Pros: Great city. Great franchise, good fans, hungry to get back to its Jordan-era status in the Association. You’d play with a fantastic nucleus – and become an immediate Title contender, which you can’t say for New Jersey or New York. You'd also get to pick your coach, which Michael Jordan also did in Chicago.
Cons: Some wonder if you could fit in with similar players like Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon. Would they need to trade away somebody? Maybe, maybe not. But I honestly think the Bulls present the least cons in the entire group. They also present the smallest upside. What do I mean by that? Just remember, this is another Midwestern city. If you are going to jump ship, are the Chicago Bulls that different than where you're coming from? Would this be that significant of a change?
Los Angeles Clippers
Pros: It’s L.A. If you believe you belong in a mecca, Los Angeles gives you the most opportunity to produce movies and TV, build a music label, and associate with stars and moguls. From an “entertainment hub” perspective, nothing even comes close. You’d be toasted and loved – and you could turn the Clippers into a real franchise with one autograph. And, if you're tired of being the only star in town back in Cleveland, you wouldn't suffer the same, intense scrutiny in L.A. as other places.
Cons: You’d have to play for owner Donald Sterling, who is notoriously difficult. This is also the franchise where good players go to die – or suffer career-ending injuries like Blake Griffin. In truth, the Clips have a compelling nucleus with Baron Davis, Eric Gordon and Chris Kaman, but the Clippers also suffer from “second-class citizen syndrome,” just like the Nets. Los Angeles is a Lakers town – always was, always will be. You’d now find yourself competing for media coverage with Kobe Bryant. You might take that as a challenge, but do you want to literally share the same stage (both teams share the same home arena) with one of your rivals?
So there you have it. Now what’s it going to be, LeBron? Which team are you picking?