Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"The Decision"

The End is Near

After a week of rumors, whirlwind meetings, more meetings and then more meetings, answers started today with the announcement of Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade signing with the Heat. They said it wasn’t about the money (Sure!) and they said that Miami is the place they believe they can win multiple contracts together. So two big fish catch the worm and all the others are left holding their cards at the table awaiting the “Kings” decision. Tomorrow night on ESPN the world will know, live from the Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich, Connecticut. James will be featured in a 1 hour fluff fest called, “The Decision”.

So my initial reaction was, WOW! What an egotistical maniac. MJ would never have referred to himself as the “Greatest” but James pronounces himself as the “King”. Then after several hours of mulling it over, I thought, “WOW! Seriously? National television to announce where you are playing basketball?!” Finally after thinking about it for a few more minutes, I realized that the NBA has consumed the lives of a ton of fans for a whole week; why not end it with a bang!? So here we are, less than 24 hours away from the “Decision” and while everyone says nobody knows what is going on, Lebron knows, his people know. What is the point of scheduling a special to release the news prior to the special? So we wait, we wait for the plane to arrive, for Lebron to arrive, for the kids to arrive, we wait for his announcement; we wait. The same way Stuart Scott waits to say “Booya!” and for his eye to go back to normal.

I made my prediction last week and I’ll stick with it, I think that on the floor, the Bulls now with the acquisition of Boozer, have the best chance to win a title; the quickest of any of the six teams with the existing players on the roster. In looking at Miami, yes, they would have three stars. However, even with three stars, there is one ball and NOBODY ELSE. Agreed, they are three of the top 10 players in the league and some people could say, “Well, Look at Boston, they did it with three stars” but, let’s take a look at Boston. Boston had Kendrick Perkins and Rondo in place (while he was certainly not the player he is today) and Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen were all in their 30’s. They knew they had to play together to win. With Bosh, Lebron and Wade, they all want the ball, they all want the spotlight and they all want to be “The Man”. I just cannot believe they would win a title right away.

While the Bulls may not beat the Lakers or Orlando right away, I predict they would be closer than any other team from the moment Boozer signed the contract. Don’t forget since James, Wade and Bosh would have to take less money to play together, it would fit under the 58 million dollar salary cap. However they have Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers on the roster with three 2nd round picks, so they would have 3 max players, 2 players at around the mid level exception (who are not very good) and then 8 players at the veteran or rookie minimum. With all that money being thrown at average players, I just do not see James going there.

The Choice as I see it

Really, there are 3 teams (if we eliminate Miami for the time being - I should not completely dismiss them, since it is very possible he chooses them, but for my purposes I’ll use the below three teams). Main stream media picks New York based on what he would become there if he ever won, he really could be called the “King” of the World. The other two choices, Chicago and Cleveland are decisions based on the desire for winning (Chicago) or loyalty (Cleveland).

1. New York- Finishes third in the derby due to lack of moving parts, despite Amare signing on. If Lebron chooses the Knicks, it is more about fame and building his brand, not about winning a title within the next 3 years. He cannot win without other players and currently Amare is the only player worth anything on that roster. They have no point guard; they have Eddie “I’m Fat” Curry and a coach that does not believe in a defense.

2. Chicago- Prior to today’s signing of Carlos Boozer, the Bulls had Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. While James would have made them a stellar team, they were probably still a shooter and a back-to-the-basket scorer away from contending with the beasts of the east (Orlando, Boston). Although Carlos Boozer is not a top 10 player in the league like Chris Bosh, he is pretty damn good. You do not average 20 points and 10 boards for a career in the Western Conference by accident. He can help the Bulls become an instant playoff team. Without Lebron, they are still in NBA hell. However, it is a better NBA hell, because with a couple of moves, some luck and a few upgrades to the roster, the arrow points higher than it currently is.

3. Cleveland- While I still do not see the talent that wins a title on the roster, I completely understand the pull Lebron feels to the city and the state of Ohio. Growing up in Chicago, I feel the same way. I would hope that if D-Rose ever hits the open market, he would choose to stay home instead of leaving for a bigger market, a better team, a chance to play with different players or whatever reason. The Cavs won a ton of games the last 2 seasons, made the finals three years ago riding the coattails of Lebron. With a few moves AND Lebron, they will eventually win a title. On the other hand, do they have the pieces in place to get another star to share the load?

His Legacy

Talent-wise, Lebron James will go down in history with some of the NBA greats; Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neil, Julius Erving etc, etc. What I think separates those players from Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and John Stockton are championship rings. Without a championship title and more likely several, Lebron’s legacy faces a downward spiral and while he probably will compete for the rank of greatest player ever, without the titles, the argument ends at statistics.

Bias aside, if the decision James makes is truly about loyalty to his home and the 12% annual raises and 30 million dollars, I would gain a lot of respect for him. Staying in Cleveland makes sense. He can stand in front of the camera, look America in the eye and say, “My decision is based on loyalty to several thousand people who have followed me and loved me for years, and it’s about the city of Cleveland, my birth place, my children, my family and my comfort level with where I am. It is also my dream of bringing a title to this great city.”

If he goes to NY, it’s not about winning and the decision is about fame, and not basketball and he will be very far from winning a title. Lebron in NY makes me want to pluck my eye brows out with a toothpick.

If he chooses Miami, he has to contend with the county being named after another player on his own team. He is no longer King, and while he still is the best player, it’s not his team. They eventually win a title but it would not mean as much to him as winning in Cleveland.

If he chooses the Bulls, it’s about the fame and fortune, of winning and endorsements. It puts him in the same spotlight as Michael Jordan, his idol and, of course, I’m okay with that decision as well.

My hope for 7/8/2010-“The Decision”

I really want Lebron James on the Bulls. I want him to announce the next five years he will be dressed in a Bulls Jersey, be out and about in Chicago, and become a bigger superstar than he already is. I want him to bring the Bulls back to the prominent franchise it was in the 90’s.

Second, I want James to be sure about his decision and do whatever he does for the right reason. Fame and fortune is his wherever he plays, but I believe titles will decide his final legacy. Great talents like James do not come around all too often. To fulfill their destiny as a all-time great, multiple championships are needed.

Third, I want his decision to actually be announced on the air at 10 minutes after 8 PM on the show known as “The Decision” not by Chad Ford or Shelly Smith or Steven A Smith at noon via Twitter. This entire process for James’ camp have controlled the media and kept everything secret. They made no comments and nobody in his party is currently speaking. All teams involved have reported they have not been told where they are going or exactly where they stand. Do I believe the team doesn’t know? Probably not, but it would be really neat to see him pick up the phone at 8:10 PM on 7/8/10 and confirm his choice to the owner of the team, to the GM of the team, to one of the players on that team or even the Mayor of the City of that team. How great would it be for the media not to break the news to America prior to the most sought after free agent in NBA history telling America himself?

Finally, I hope that James is honest as to why his choice is made. If it’s NY, tell us that it’s because it offered the best financial opportunity outside of basketball. If it’s Miami, tell us you wanted to live on South Beach and win titles with Wade and Bosh. If it’s Chicago, tell us that it’s because you want to live up to the legacy set by Michael Jordan. Just be honest, Lebron, and no matter what the choice is, even the people of Cleveland would forgive you if you left.

How do you think Lebron should make the announcement? Leave your comments below.

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