July 08, 2010
Where Will LeBron Go?
Cleveland. All signs point to Miami, but I've been saying Cleveland all year long.
Because if he stays in Cleveland, what will ESPN do for the other 55 minutes of the show? Run clips of the Cavs being swept by the Spurs in '07 or taken down by the Celtics this past season?
He picks Chicago or Miami if he wants a championship. He picks New Jersey or Los Angeles if he wants a challenge. He picks Cleveland if he wants affection. And he picks New York if he wants fame and riches beyond any basketball player's imagination. Last week I would have bet he went to Chicago. This week I would have bet he stayed in Cleveland. But his most recent power play, carving out one hour of prime-time television to announce his decision, was pure Madison Avenue. Setting himself in Greenwich, Conn. -- home of New York's hedge-fund managers, whose estates are about as big as Madison Square Garden itself -- shows just how badly he wants to join their ranks. He already has the marketing company, the movie deal, the friendships with tycoons ranging from Warren Buffett to Jay-Z. He can now become one of them, as he's always wanted, and he might eventually win something too.
Don't let Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh's "We'll let him do his thing" statements fool you: Miami is putting on the full-court press. And if LeBron spends an hour in primetime telling Cleveland why he is walking away he will be come an Art Modellian-type villain. But the signing of Carlos Boozer on Wednesday stacks the Bulls' roster with championship level players that with LeBron would make Chicago the front-runner to win the title next season. Factor in the large media market and from all vantage points it's a slam dunk.
As much as it would be amusing at this point to see James sabotage himself -- sort of like Plaxico Burress -- I can't honestly see him going on national television to say that he just doesn't love his hometown any longer. I foresee a Tiger Woods-like presentation, with him thanking everybody from Mikhail Prokhorov to Donald Sterling's pool boy before saying he owed it to himself to see what was out there, but in the end he went straight Dorothy and there's no place like home.
Despite widespread reports that he is headed to Miami, count me among the dwindling few that believe James will look at the Taj Mahal of a training complex the Cavs have built minutes from his home, the spare-no-expense approach of owner Dan Gilbert, the Chris Paul-endorsed coach in Byron Scott and a team that won 127 games in the last two seasons with him. Players with visions of a legacy need their own team, like Jordan with the Bulls, Bird with the Celtics and Kobe with the Lakers. If LeBron wants that, he stays in Cleveland, not coattail on Dwyane Wade.

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