All 30 NBA Teams Make Their Pitch to Sign LeBron James
In eight months, LeBron James has the opportunity to opt out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and become an unrestricted free agent. Declining his player option is a no-brainer financially, as it would give James a chance to secure more guaranteed money, be it from the Cavs or a new team.
It seems clear that LeBron will use next summer as an opportunity to re-evaluate his fit in Cleveland, and rumors have swirled for the better part of the last year that another departure is more likely than not.
If and when James hits the open market, every team in the league will be knocking down his agent's door for an interview. Here are arguments from Cleveland and from the 29 NBA teams hoping to persuade LeBron to take his talents to their city.
Short pitch: "We have good food and good hip-hop, and, umm, some basketball players."
Long pitch: “We know that when it comes to the finer things in life you've developed a refined taste, but we also know you still find comfort in life's simple pleasures. In Atlanta, we're less about fine wine and Cubans and more about biscuits and gravy, and damn do we do it well.
"We also know you love music. You've spent the entirety of your career playing in cities where Machine Gun Kelly and Rick Ross were among the best the region had to offer. In Atlanta, we have big hitters such as Future, 21 Savage and Migos, not to mention the classics: OutKast, Jeezy, T.I. and about a thousand more.
"Oh, you want to know more about our roster? Well, uh…”
Short pitch: "Ringzzzzzz."
Long pitch: “Let's be real, LeBron. If you leave Cleveland you're doing it for one reason—to win more championships. Well, buddy, our franchise has 17 of them! We have a great coach, a couple of stars to play alongside you, another one we would gladly trade if you so desired—*AHEM*—and a deep supporting cast.
"We also have one of the more devoted fanbases in the NBA. We might not be Miami or L.A., but you could do a whole lot worse. Plus, and most importantly, we're in the East.”
Short pitch: "Cement your legacy by building something out of nothing."
Long pitch: “We know you love a good narrative. Well, what's a better story than coming to Brooklyn and turning a seemingly impossible rebuild into an immediate title contender?
"Our roster kind of sucks, we know, but we have some (very nice) flexibility if we can just get out from under the $69 million-plus we still owe Timofey Mozgov and Allen Crabbe (we know, it's brutal).
"Come play in the best city in the world, and knock yourself out with the ESPN trade machine trying to swing deals for your friends around the league. Nobody on our roster is untouchable.”
Short pitch: "If you can't beat the GOAT, join him."
Long pitch: “You've made it your life's mission to surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time. Well, we all know that's not going to happen, but if you come to Charlotte, he can at very least impart some wisdom upon you in between golf outings and whatever it is he does as our chairman.
"Plus, you both have no problem signing washed-up former All-Stars, so I don't think the two of you will have many disagreements about the construction of the roster.”
Short pitch: "Come build a superteam in a great basketball city."
Long pitch: “Things just haven't been the same here in Chicago since Jordan left in 1998. Sure, we've had some good years here and there, but nothing like the sustained success MJ brought us. But you, LeBron, could bring us back to our rightful place at the forefront of the NBA scene. If you do, our fans will be forever grateful.
"We're set up decently enough with our cap, and $14 million of that is tied up in Robin Lopez's expiring contract. Don't worry about the details of how yet, but a LeBron-CP3-Boogie trio sounds pretty good, right?”
Short pitch: "There's no place like home."
Long pitch: “We know we've had our difficulties in the past, what with the Comic Sans letter, not giving you a supporting cast the first time around and that whole jersey burning thing. But 2016 was awesome, and with the combination of our roster, a healthy Isaiah Thomas and that 2018 Brooklyn pick, we believe we have the pieces to get you another championship or two.
"And remember what happened the last time you decided to leave for greener pastures? You were labeled a traitor and a front-runner. For the sake of your legacy and for the sake of the city you love, please stay.”
Short pitch: "Come prove you're the greatest athlete of all time."
Long pitch: “We know Seth isn't the Curry you want to team up with heading into the final years of your prime. But what we lack in star power, we make up for in perks.
"We're one of six NBA teams located in a city that is exempt from state income tax, which isn't insignificant for someone set to make $35 million next season. Mark Cuban is an owner who is willing to spend whatever it takes to field a championship-caliber team. And most importantly, you're right down the road from your favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys.
"You've long dreamed about wanting to lace 'em up and take a stab at playing in the NFL. Do that here and cement your legacy as the greatest pure athlete the world has ever seen.”
Short pitch: "Nobody here gives a s--t, and that's kind of refreshing."
Long pitch: “We might've been last in attendance last year, but at this point in your career, wouldn't it be nice to fly under the radar for a bit? Over the past 30 years, we've only won three playoff series, and we're the second-oldest team to never make it to the Finals.
"Playing in a city dominated by the Broncos (and, to an extent, the Avalanche and Rockies), we're used to being an afterthought, and our fans don't expect much. In Denver, you’d get a lot less hate on sports talk radio, see way fewer ‘LeChoke’ headlines, and every May you'd get an early vacation.
"Doesn't sound too bad, does it?”
Short pitch: "At least we're not Cleveland."
Long pitch: “Since you were drafted 14 years ago, you've almost single-handedly brought new life to downtown Cleveland. Some estimates from a few years ago said your return to the Cavs gave local business a $500 million boost.
"Detroit is in the early stages of an economic renaissance, and what better way to jump-start that process than to have you as the bridge between old and new Detroit. You'd be beloved here, not only as an athlete but as a force for good in a city on the rise.
"And hey, between Ohio, Florida and Michigan, you'd be set up well when you inevitably run for president in 2032.”
Short pitch: "Embrace the hate."
Long pitch: “The most fun you ever had playing basketball was during your four years as the lead villain in Miami. What better way to reclaim that heel status than to sign a vet-minimum deal with us and go for 82-0?
"From a basketball standpoint, it would be beautiful. Kevin Durant and Draymond Green would play in the frontcourt and be matchup nightmares. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson would just hang out in the splash zone and give the rest of you space to operate, and you would orchestrate it all.
"Rings are rings, and the history books won't include asterisks.”
Short pitch: "Your best shot at a championship (besides Golden State)."
Long pitch: “There aren't a lot of landing spots where you'd have a realistic shot at winning another championship before you retire, but we're one of them. And we have a good deal of cap flexibility if we can shed Ryan Anderson's $41.7 million salary.
"We could put together a great roster around you if you and your banana boat-mate, Chris Paul, are willing to take slightly discounted deals. If any general manager in the league could make a superteam with you, CP3 and James Harden work, it's Daryl Morey.”
Short pitch: "Come run up your career stats."
Long pitch: “We've done the math. You need somewhere in the neighborhood of 9,300 more points before retirement to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA's all-time scoring leader. Assuming you play six more seasons at 70 games per year, you'll need to average 22.4 points per game from now until the day you retire at age 39 to reach KAJ's magic number of 38,387.
"In the history of the league, only two players have maintained a 20-plus points-per-game average at that age: Karl Malone and Michael Jordan. Here in talent-starved Indiana, we have Victor freaking Oladipo averaging nearly 23 points a night.
"If you signed with us, we'd let you run this thing like your own personal Pro-Am team. Want Thaddeus Young to never take another shot again? Done. Hell, if you wanted, you might surpass Kareem by the end of next season.”
Short pitch: "Play in L.A. and actually win some games."
Long pitch: “Sure, you could sign with the Lakers and limp to an eighth seed while LaVar Ball complains every night that you forced Lonzo to play off the ball. Or you could sign with the third-most popular basketball team in Los Angeles, the Clippers!
"We have star player(s?), celebrity superfans like Billy Crystal and all the Microsoft Surface Pros you could ever want. And with the Clippers, you won't have to worry about one of your teammate's dads getting way too involved in his son's caree— wait…”
Short pitch: "We deserve it."
Long pitch: “Look, it's been a tough few years for us here in Lakers Nation. First there was Dwightmare; then we had #FormerFutureLaker Russell Westbrook and #MaybeFutureLaker Paul George stolen from us by Oklahoma City; now a 7-foot Star Wars geek is our center. But you, LeBron, have always been the man for whom our free agent lust has been its strongest.
"From afar, we've dreamt of taking you for granted, of comparing you to Kobe Bryant in unfair and loosely rational ways, and of questioning your killer instinct after every failed final possession. Please don't make the internet retweet all of our old uniform-swap photoshops again; we're begging you.”
Short pitch: "Wouldn't it be fun to yell at Mario Chalmers again."
Long pitch: “Admit it, LeBron. Screaming at Tristan Thompson on the bench isn't the same as getting in the face of Mario Chalmers and telling him just how utterly useless he is on the defensive end. Well, here in Memphis, you can rediscover that joy once again.
Short pitch: "Didn't we have a lot of fun together the last time?"
Long pitch: “We know things didn't end great the last time we were together, but don't you remember all those fun times we had? The championships, the nightlife, the beautiful women.
"Remember when you said you'd win ‘not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven’ NBA titles? We can make that a reality, baby. With your veteran leadership and Dion Wai—No, LeBron! Don't leave!”
Short pitch: "Change the ‘big city’ narrative."
Long pitch: “Here in Milwaukee, we're fans of the simple things in life: beers, brats and 7-foot point guards with Slinkys for arms. We're not used to players of your caliber considering signing with us—we're more of a Greg Monroe city—but we think this would be a match made in heaven.
"We have shooters, we have a few shot-blockers, and we have a young man whose very existence belies the existence of a benevolent god.”
Short pitch: "We have a dope-ass mall."
Long pitch: “Look, we could sell you on getting to play for a great coach in Tom Thibodeau, beside a two-way star like Jimmy Butler and having the ability to transition into a smaller role over time as Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins mature into the superstars we know they can be.
"But we won’t sell you on that.
"The reality is a lot of teams can offer you stability or a model for sustainable success. Our question is: How many can give you a 4.2-million-square-foot mall with four different Sunglass Huts and its own amusement park? Charlotte sure as hell can't, we'll tell you that much!”
Short pitch: "Join the bigs in the Big Easy."
Long pitch: “Let's be real, LeBron: You're probably not going to win another championship so long as the Golden State Warriors exist in their current form. So why not spend the twilight years of your career somewhere warm and fun?
Short pitch: "Come own this city."
Long pitch: “New Yorkers have been not-so-patiently waiting for an NBA championship for almost 45 years. If you can deliver one to them, you'll be immortal in the greatest city on earth.
"We may have a lot of bad money tied up in a lot of not-so-great players, but we also have Kristaps Porzingis, and that's all that matters. If you're cool with playing second fiddle to a 12-foot Latvian, we have a spot with your name on it!”
Short pitch: "No distractions, just basketball."
Long pitch: “Look, we know you're probably used to enjoying the more cosmopolitan pleasures in life: fancy French dinners, designer clothing boutiques, wine that comes in actual bottles. We get it.
"But if you want to go somewhere where you can focus 100 percent on basketball, by choice or by necessity, Oklahoma City is the spot to be. With you, Russ, PG-13 and Melo, we can compete with the Warriors. You know, we think.”
Short pitch: "Family-friendly fun and a whole lotta sun."
Long pitch: “We’re the early feel-good story of the 2017-18 season, so what you need to do is hurry up and commit to us before this whole thing comes crashing down—err, really takes off! Plus, we think Orlando would be a great place for you and Savannah to raise your three children.
"We have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, a big-ass SeaWorld, the one and only Disney World and the sun is out 236 days a year! And our team is actually good, we think!”
Short pitch: "Let Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid carry you through old age."
Long pitch: “Let's face it, LeBron: You won't be the greatest player on the planet forever. And if you're going to make a real push to go from three rings to six before you retire, you're going to need to find some young stars to help get you there.
"Good thing we have two of them. Also, we have Wawa, which is basically an upscale 7-Eleven that your one friend from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, never shuts the hell up about.”
Short pitch: "You can be the superstar, the GM, the coach…hell, even the owner!"
Long pitch: “Look, we know it doesn't seem like we're a team with a lot to offer a player of your caliber. But what we lack in roster quality, franchise stability and cosmopolitan appeal, we make up for by giving you the opportunity to do whatever the hell you want.
"On the court and in the huddle, you'd be the unquestioned alpha. Off the court, you'd call all the shots. Want us to fire Jay Triano and promote James Jones to head coach? You've got it. You want us to trade Dragan Bender and a first-round pick for Joe Johnson? Why the hell not.
"You want to become the first player in NBA history to also be the primary owner of the team? Well, Robert Sarver might be looking to sell anyway…”
Short pitch: "Come play for the best fans in the NBA."
Long pitch: “Over the last three seasons, we've won just a shade over 55 percent of our games, but our attendance has hovered around 99.5 percent. We're a one-sport town if you don’t count soccer, and in Portland we love our basketball.
"We haven't won a championship since 1977, and people around here still talk about that team. Win here, and you'd own the Pacific Northwest.”
Short pitch: "Let's make NBA 2.0 a reality."
Long pitch: “Everyone laughed when our owner talked about positionless basketball way back in 2014, but now it's become commonplace in the NBA. And they thought it was wild when he suggested that teams play defense four-on-five in order to maximize offensive opportunities on the fast break.
"Today, the Minnesota Timberwolves have found success doing that by allowing Karl-Anthony Towns to attempt to defend the rim on a nightly basis. Point is, basketball is evolving, and Vivek Ranadive has a vision for what that change looks like.
"‘LeBron James, designated scorer’ has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?”
Short pitch: "Let Pop transform you into the most unstoppable player in NBA history."
Long pitch: “In Gregg Popovich's storied coaching career, he's been able to do two things remarkably well.
"First, he's been able to get the most of out of anyone who's come through San Antonio, from role players such as Patty Mills to Hall of Famers such as Tim Duncan. And second, he and the Spurs' training staff have kept his more senior players contributing well into their late 30s.
"Heck, Manu Ginobili is 40, and he's still logging 20 minutes a night for us. You're better than anyone Pop's gotten his hands on, and you also have the better part of a decade before you reach retiring age. That's a lot of time to add some more rings to both of your hands.”
Short pitch: "Be the greatest NBA player of all time…to play in Canada."
Long pitch: “It's uncertain whether you'll go down as the greatest NBA player of all time. But while Michael Jordan may retain his GOAT status, you can be the greatest to ever grace the court in the whole of Canada. And in case you didn't know, given that Canada is bigger than the United States, being the greatest here is clearly more important.
"Also, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would gladly welcome you and your teammates to 24 Sussex Drive when you win a championship with the Raptors, unlike the man you not so ceremoniously called a 'bum' not too long ago.”
Short pitch: "Our fans will treat you with kindness."
Long pitch: “LeBron, we know things in Cleveland haven't always been easy. You carried your teammates on your back for seven years only to have your jersey burned by the fans who previously claimed to adore you when you decided to leave.
"And still, even after you've returned to them, they still continue to question your loyalty. In Utah, we do unto our players as we want them to do unto us. You've been burned before; why not try the 'nice guy' team?”
Short pitch: "We're in the East."
Long pitch: “Let's not kid ourselves: In Washington, the sport of choice is politics, and when it comes to basketball the Wizards aren't even the most popular team in the city (go Hoyas!).
"But we do have John Wall and Bradley Beal, and in the Eastern Conference the three of you would form a good enough core to contend for a trip to the Finals every year. Why waste your energy battling it out in the West? Hell, we'd probably be able to run up our record enough early in the season that you could just head south for a couple of months around the All-Star break and come back to DC for the playoffs in April.
"Just in time for cherry blossom season, might we add!”