Has it really been nearly four years? Why yes, it has.
On July 8th, 2010, LeBron James, known in some circles as The King, and others, as the “Best Basketball Player on the Planet, orchestrated a fantastical media extravaganza entitled “The Decision.” James had spent the first seven years of his career playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he amassed an impressive array of honors and recognition, including 6 All-Star appearances, and two League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards…but zero NBA Titles.
Tomorrow night, the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, NY, will host the 2014 NBA Draft. By the time the Draft officially ends in the wee hours of Friday morning, less than 96 hours (4 days) will remain until the onset of this year’s Free Agent Class. An always-important dimension of any NBA season took on added importance yesterday, as LeBron James’ agent, Rich Paul, announced that James will exercise the early termination option in his contract and become a Free Agent on July 1st.
In the original “Decision,” James, a native of Akron, Ohio, elected to leave near-by Cleveland, and “Take his talents to South Beach to play for the Miami Heat.” In Miami, he joined Heat star Dwayne Wade, and Toronto Raptor star Chris Bosh joined them both. The Big 3, as they have become known, went on an impressive run, appearing in 4 consecutive NBA Finals; losing to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2013, and the San Antonio Spurs in 2013, and losing in a rematch this year to those same Spurs.
It is important to note that this year’s LeBron Show will likely be very different than the media event of four years ago. Then, there was a fairly broad expectation that James would seriously consider leaving Cleveland, and little surprise when he did. This year, while it is certainly conceivable that he will leave MIA, it will not evoke much surprise if he ultimately opts to stay in South Beach.
It is no surprise that LeBron chose to opt out. MIA was summarily spanked by San Antonio in The Finals. They managed one victory, and that, only by a couple of points, while losing the other four games by 15 points or more, including two maulings at home in MIA. Ultimately, James may not wish to leave the Heat, but he certainly wants Pat Riley and the Heat to ensure that the team is more competitive moving forward. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d surmise Riley got the message loud and clear.
In addition to the possibility that the outcome (leaving his current team) may be different, my gut suggests he will not replicate the elaborate backdrop for his 2014 “Decision.” Mr. James endured a resounding backlash for his handling of that situation. While I did not find it as off-putting as some did, LeBron has usually been amazingly media-savvy. He is one of the more successful product pitchmen in contemporary culture. My expectation is, no matter what his “Decision,” LeBron will communicate it in a more understated manner than he did in 2010.
In the coming days, there will likely be quite a buzz regarding the possible destination that LeBron choose. Some have reckoned that he may lead the formation of a new Big 3 with Carmelo Anthony as a key player. There are a few teams that stand out in the mix, including the Houston Rockets, where he could join Superman and the Beard, also known as Dwight Howard and James Harden, the Chicago Bulls, who are also expected to vie for the services of Carmelo Anthony, the Los Angeles Lakers, who could create the cap space, but would not have a robust supporting cast, were they to do so, the Dallas Mavericks, though Dirk Nowitzki would likely have to absorb a sizeable pay cut, the Los Angeles Clippers, though they might have to jettison both DeAndre Jordan, and Blake Griffin, in which case they become a lot like the Lakers.
There are also teams that cash rich, but cachet poor, like the Charlotte Hornets, the Phoenix Suns, and Washington Wizards. I’m ready and willing to be surprised, especially in the case of the Hornets, but I put the chances of James “Taking his services to on of these three teams nestled between slim and none, and resting closer to none.
That leaves the team that I believe sits in the catbird seat in this year’s LeBron sweepstakes. Suffice it to say, I have no inside intel, but in my humble opinion, “The Decision, Part II,” will end just as the Decision did; with LeBron in South Beach. The NBA rules of engagement allow MIA and all teams to exceed the cap to re-sign their own players. MIA needs to re-tool, and certainly have the motivation to do so, and…I think they will.
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