MVP or not, LeBron James is arguably the most coveted player in the NBA right now.
If you asked owners and general managers which current player they would most want as the cornerstone of their team, James would probably be the one most frequently named.
For schmucks who are lucky enough to nab the first overall pick in a fantasy draft, he's the guy they're most likely to choose.
Therefore it's no wonder that so many people like to suggest that LeBron James would choose to snub Cleveland in order for the chance to play for whoever their favorite team happens to be.
Such arguments are usually centered around the premise that James will eventually become so frustrated with the apparent lack of talent surrounding him that he'll feel the need to go elsewhere to pursue his goal of an NBA championship.
Fans of other teams will point to his associations with certain celebrities or hip-hop moguls as a rationale for LeBron's supposed desire to play elsewhere. They may also suggest that LeBron could supplement his endorsement income by playing in a city with a larger market.
Though fans can dream of LeBron James signing with their team when he reaches unrestricted free agency in 2010, it's still only that; a dream. The reality is that there is no good reason to believe that LeBron would not re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here's why:
5. LeBron is not that frustrated. Contrary to popular belief, LeBron is not upset with how things are going in Cleveland; not enough to want to leave, at least.
After all, the Cavaliers have had four straight winning seasons and just made the playoffs for the third year in a row. Though LeBron's supporting cast may be plagued by inconsistency, the Cavs have been doing quite well compared to other "one-man" teams such as the Raptors during the Vince Carter era or the post-Shaq Lakers.
If LeBron is frustrated, he hasn't really expressed it. He's been asked many times about rumored trades and signings and, generally, he always responds with the same basic statement.
"I think it'd be great to have (player) on my team. They could really contribute, so I think we should consider them. Still, even if we didn't, I'm confident that we would still be successful with the current roster."
Notice the key word; "consider." Many so-called journalists will take the liberty to interpret such statements by James to suggest that he is pressuring Cleveland's front office to get a deal done. This simply isn't the case.
Never has LeBron James openly criticized GM Danny Ferry for making (or failing to make) a roster change, nor has he openly challenged Ferry to make a certain deal. LeBron understands the way trades work and how the Cavaliers are in no position to make a blockbuster trade.
This team, as ugly as it may look sometimes, has been relatively successful. Though LeBron doesn't have his Championship yet, he knows that it's not realistic to expect it right away. Even Michael Jordan had to wait until his 7th season to get his first ring.
4. LeBron knows that the Cavaliers are committed to winning. Owner Dan Gilbert is no cheapskate. Even though Cleveland is considered a small market team, they have ventured well into the Luxury Tax to maintain a formidable roster.
Despite the fact that they largely turned out to be disappointments, free-agent signings of Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, and Damon Jones were considered by many in the press to be really good moves at the time. Former all-star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas was also re-signed, prompting LeBron to sign a contract extension.
The recent trade in February upped the Cavaliers payroll even more. Though they won't necessarily be in great position to make any big trades or signings this summer, they have a few expiring contracts that could prove very valuable next February. If no big trades are made, they could have the potential for some cap space in the summer of 2009.
The Cavaliers organization knows that it will have chances to make major roster moves before LeBron reaches free agency, and there is no reason to believe that they will be stingy when it comes to putting together a championship-caliber team.
3. The Cavaliers will be tailor-made for LeBron. Cleveland has an advantage in the sense that they know what role LeBron wants to play on the team and the skills needed in the players around him.
Not only are the Cavaliers committed to winning a championship, they have long-term plans to build a team around LeBron James so that the supporting cast plays to his strengths.
Drafting Daniel Gibson is a good example. On any other team, Gibson would be a drastically undersized shooting guard. However, teamed with a ball-handling LeBron, Gibson's outside shooting from the PG position spreads the floor.
Though LeBron could contribute on any team, he must have quite a bit of comfort in knowing that his current team intends to surround him with nothing but complementary players.
2. Northeast Ohio is Home for LeBron. Don't forget that LeBron is a family man. His mother, girlfriend, and two young sons are all living in Ohio and he's not likely to uproot them all for a move to another city.
This is the place where he grew up and the place where many of his family and friends, closer even than Jay-Z, still live.
LeBron's large house in Bath, Ohio, just outside of Akron, is almost finished. Judging by the size of it, he's probably planning on staying there for a while.
LeBron has taken it upon himself to organize many regular charity events in the Cleveland-Akron area and apparently identifies himself as a benefactor to his hometown community.
1. Money. Think the lure of money will trump all these things? Well, in a way, you'd be right. However, it still works in favor of Cleveland.
Unless there are major changes when the collective bargaining agreement with the league is renegotiated in 2010, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be able to offer more money to LeBron James than any other team in the league. Not only that, but there's no reason to believe that they won't offer him as much as possible.
Under the current rules, only the Cavs could potentially offer LeBron a maximum contract of six years. Other teams could only offer a five year contract for a slightly smaller salary per year.
Ah, but what about endorsements? That's where the real money is.
True, and a player like LeBron has the potential to make almost as much in endorsements as he does with his NBA salary. However, this writer would argue that moving to another city would not have any significant effect on the amount of money he gets for endorsements.
LeBron James is a national, dare I say international icon. No matter where he goes, the size of his fan base is not going to change significantly. In fact, from a strictly business perspective, he retains more appeal by sticking with the same team.
Take guys like Tracy McGrady, Steve Francis, or even Shaq for example. If anything, they had less national appeal after switching teams. How often did you ever seen Michael Jordan portrayed commercially as a Washington Wizard?
LeBron James has nothing to gain by taking less salary in order to play for a larger market team, especially not when his current team is selling out the vast majority of their home games.
No, all the important things point to LeBron James staying in Cleveland. He's stated on numerous occasions that he plans to stay a Cavalier for a long time. And why not?
I mean, what's so bad about Cleveland, anyway?