This is the story that won't go away this NBA season -- it is, at once, extremely tiresome and oddly fascinating. It's tiresome because we are destined for eight months of rumors and no actual news, and now that Cleveland has started the season 0-2, talking heads will inevitably ask if LeBron's impending free agency is a distraction.
But it is fascinating because it's not just about where an incredible athlete plays basketball for the next few years. It is about this question:
Who is LeBron James?
We know that he has the basketball skills to lead a franchise to a half-dozen championships; that he wants to be the richest man in the world; and that he is the rare superstar who could play his entire career down the road from where he grew up.
But which of those qualities defines him? Answer that, and you'll know what he'll do next summer.
If playing in Cleveland means so much to the Akron native, then of course he'll stay there. But this is the same guy who not only pulls for the Yankees but also cheered them on at a playoff game
That may explain why James did not sign a contract extension with the Cavaliers over the summer, even if he plans to stay there. He likes holding the cards. As long as James remains unsigned, the Cavaliers are scared to death of him, and he likes it that way. Every major personnel move has to go through him. He wants
Cavs management has been eager to satisfy James, and it has led to short-term moves that didn't make the most financial sense. If James had signed a 10-year deal starting in 2005 (yes, I know that's not even legal in the NBA -- I'm being hypothetical here), I wonder if Cleveland would have overpaid
Even if he stays in Cleveland, James is clearly
But what drives him? Is it fame? If so, he'll leave for New York. Even
Is LeBron driven by the desire for championships? If so, he can't possibly leave a 60-team win in Cleveland for the rebuilding Knicks, can he? Yes, LeBron instantly makes New York substantially better, but right now his best shot at winning a title is in Cleveland. This year's Knicks may win 30 games if they're lucky, and the franchise is pinning a lot of its hopes on next summer's free-agent market.
Maybe LeBron James will decide that winning championships is his business. Maybe he has wanted to go to New York all along. Maybe he is bluffing and wants to stay in Cleveland. Whatever the case, when James announces his plans next summer, we will learn more than just where he is going. We will find out who he is.