With just one day left before LeBron James chooses his free agent destination, I thought I’d look at the options from James’ perspective.
Cleveland - James must feel the love from his hometown if he’s still considering Cleveland. The Cavs haven’t done an awful job putting a team around him, like Minnesota did with Kevin Garnett. However the team hasn’t been able to lure any major players to Ohio. Amar’e didn’t seem interested (either this year or last) and Bosh didn’t want to go either. For them to give up teaming with LeBron for an eventual ring doesn’t speak well on the perception of life in the Buckeye State during the winter/spring.
Nonetheless it doesn’t mean that James is ready to bolt. The Cavs are likely going to be contenders as long as James is there, so he may not feel pressured to go somewhere else. A Bosh/Wade combo isn’t something insurmountable for the King, but it does make it more difficult for him to get that ring. Finally don’t discount the emotional ties he has to the area. If James were to leave he’ll have lots of people turn their backs on him. This might not have been the case if he brought a title home, but alas that wasn’t in the cards.
Miami - If you can’t beat’em join them. Going to Miami with Wade and Bosh would give James an unstoppable crew which would win multiple championships. On the other hand heading to South Beach taints James’ legacy. LeBron going to Miami would have been like Michael Jordan going to the Celtics or Lakers. That’s something great players do at the tail end of their career, when they are desperate to win a title.
New York – If James is concerned about his legacy and doesn’t like the prospects of going through Orlando and Miami alone, then New York is likely his best option. Coming to New York would give James the second superstar he’s always wanted with Amar’e. New Yorkers love winners who migrate to their city and end up treating them as one of their own (Reggie Jackson, Keith Hernandez/Gary Carter, Curtis Martin, Latrell Sprewell, etc.) A single championship would make him the greatest Knick of all time. On the other hand you have to wonder if James’ comments concerning wanting a team that plays strong defense wasn’t a direct shot at D’Antoni. The franchise has been a laughing stock since Dolan took over the reigns and Donnie Walsh has to be eyeing retirement, so there’s always those to consider as well.
Chicago – The Bulls have their own young star in Derek Rose and a good defensive center in Noah. However the Windy City has two issues New York doesn’t. First is that Amar’e is a better compliment to LeBron than Rose. Second is that Jordan’s shadow will loom darker in Chicago than anywhere else. Seven championship is a tall, tall order.
New Jersey – If James wants to move to New York, but can’t stomach the Knicks there’s always New Jersey. The Nyets new owner Prokhorov seems to be pulling out all the stops, and of course there’s LeBron’s buddy Jay-Z as part owner. But the team isn’t ready to go full steam yet. They won a pitiful 12 games last year and won’t be in Brooklyn until at least 2013.
Wherever James goes will reveal a lot about his character. This is the biggest decision of his life, and we often show our inner selves at our most important junctures. If he goes to New Jersey, then he has the patience to build a franchise from the ground up. If LeBron goes to Chicago then he’s not intimidated by Jordan’s legacy. If he comes to New York, then he’s interested in leaving his small town roots to strengthen his brand. If he bolts for Miami, then you know his main goal is to win a championship and he doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight.
And if LeBron James stays in Cleveland then it shows his loyalty to the people who were with him on the way up. Additionally it might reveal an incredible belief in himself that he can overcome all odds without any outside help.