"Every time I fly into Cleveland and drive toward [Quicken Loans Arena] downtown and look around, I just can't see him re-signing there," said an Eastern Conference executive whose team is not in the running to sign James. Adds a Western GM, "This whole
But seven insiders are convinced that James isn't going anywhere, while the other three rate his chances of sticking around at 50-50-depending on Cleveland's performance in the playoffs. While the Cavs can offer James close to $30 million more than any other team over the length of a six-year contract, money is the least of LeBron's concerns; he earns an estimated $28 million per year off the court. Winning is his priority: The Knicks have one of the league's least-talented rosters, and 25-year-old James knows from experience how long it can take to build a title contender from scratch, even when he is the centerpiece.
The Cavs, on the other hand, appear to be on the verge of giving Cleveland its first title in a major sport since 1964, when the Browns were NFL champions. They have done everything they can to keep James, from installing a defense-first mind-set that has become the hallmark of championship franchises to building the league's best practice facility to making inroads in the lucrative Chinese market by taking on a Chinese minority ownership group. Is he really going to throw all that away for a chance to be the savior in New York? And what if he were to go to New York and not deliver a title? James would be viewed as-yes-a bust.
The other reason for LeBron to stay in Cleveland is that he needs to be loved, not only because he is a naturally affable guy, but because his goal of becoming a global icon along the lines of
And whither the rest of the class of '10? SI's panel of insiders predicts overwhelmingly that