Is LeBron’s ego getting in the way?
Imagine in the next couple of years that James gets that coveted first NBA championship.
Imagine the day after he hoists the trophy, he picks up one of the Chicago area newspapers and reads:
“Congratulations on winning your first title. Five more and you tie Michael.”
For a guy who wants to establish his own legacy, playing in the otherworldly shadow of Michael Jordan makes absolutely no sense.
Then again, when you have played for a Cleveland team that has won 127 games the last two years, only to fire the coach, have the general manager leave and be in more disarray than “Animal House” at
3 a.m., nonsensical is normal territory.
Free agency officially begins Thursday at 12:01 a.m. EDT with a wooing period of one week. Teams can begin signing players on July 8.
The current breathless speculation is that the Bulls have the inside track on signing James because they have an outstanding group of young players led by Derrick Rose. The Heat is also generating publicity with roster-clearing moves that could create enough cap room for a blockbuster signing of James and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade.
New York may still be a serious contender despite the lack of a strong Knicks supporting cast because, let’s face it, any team that signs James is going to be in the hunt for a championship because it has LeBron James.
And he knows that.
If James wants to become the richest, most powerful and famous athlete in the world, where better than an arena that is a short limo ride from Madison Avenue, Broadway and Wall Street?
The Knicks, despite themselves, have a unique aura. They have won only two championships in their
64-year history and the last one was in 1973. Yet they have a healthy self-image of being steeped in tradition, which is a product of the power of their home town and the most rabid fan base in the league.
Imagine going to the Knicks and actually accomplishing something, like leading them to their first title in almost four decades. James would be Derek Jeter and Babe Ruth all rolled into one.
When James finally makes the decision on where to sign, it will be a good day for modern journalism. It is understandable and even admirable, when fans or radio stations that have team broadcast rights put up websites or write songs begging a star player to come play in their city.
But when a purported independent journalist writes the cutesy equivalent of, “Please LeBron, come play in my town so I can watch and cover you,” it’s sad and embarrassing. That has happened in several cities.
There are numerous reports of meetings that have already been scheduled between teams and free-agent players, including James, and that is strictly against NBA rules. Mark Cuban was fined $100,000 for tampering because of comments he made about James, but he wasn’t in direct contact with James’ representatives, nor was he setting up meetings.
Perhaps the league has decided that since the season has ended and no games are being played, it will choose to hear, see, or speak no evil. But it should at least give Cuban a refund.
For much of the past two years, the focus has been on this summer and the free-agency class that is led by James. During that time, James has repeatedly said that all he cares about is winning titles.
That is not true. If it were, he’d sign with the Lakers for whatever money they had available.
James wants to sign for maximum money and would never consider being the No. 2 player on the team, which would be the case in L.A.
Ultimately, James will sign with the team that can pay him around $100 million and present him with the most convincing plan for winning titles. You have to figure that Cuban, if armed with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, will at least tempt James.
In creating the “Big Bang” of free agency, however, James has made himself bigger than the NBA Finals and more important than tampering rules. You have to wonder if his decision on where to play will have more to do with the size of his ego and the attention he can command rather than the rings he claims are so important.
Jan Hubbard writes for the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram.