LeBron James' 2009-2010 season is over and that means only one thing-the sweepstakes for the biggest free agent in NBA history have officially begun. LeBron James walked off the court at the TD Garden last night with a look into an unknown future.
However, most sports analysts and fans have an idea of where the LeBron Machine is heading if it is not Cleveland. Those possible destinations trend heavily to the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls. LeBron would be foolish to at least not entertain, if not outright flirt, with the possibility of both locations.
We are here to weigh the options that LeBron will consider if he does in fact bolt the only town he has ever known.
The Knicks have their head coach in Mike D'Antoni who has done his best to work with a mediocre roster. D'Antoni tips the scale in the Knicks favor given his propensity for an up-tempo game. The Knicks and D'Antoni get bonus points for his reportedly warm relationship with LeBron.
Currently, the Bulls have no head coach after Vinny Del Negro was fired. There are numerous names being lobbied as the next head man in Chicago, including Byron Scott and Avery Johnson.
However, the elephant in the room is the possibility of team president Jerry Reinsdorf shelling out big bucks to bring Phil Jackson back to Chicago. If that were to happen, the needle will rapidly swing in the Bulls favor.
In this situation, the Knicks make more sense unless the Bulls bring in a 10-time title winning coach.
Given the growing chatter about LeBron's questionable supporting cast in Cleveland, who LeBron will play with in a new city will play a significant role.
LeBron had capable but not really a superior guard talent in Cleveland with Delonte West, Mo Williams, and Anthony Parker.
Derrick Rose would immediately eliminate the need for LeBron to handle all point guard duties, which could in theory make him that much more dangerous of a scorer. Kirk Hinrich adds capable and stable depth with a strong jump shot LeBron could rely on.
The Knicks, conversely, are still working with Chris Duhon, Eddie House, Bill Walker, and J.R. Giddens at the guard position. That foursome is not an even match for the Cavs let alone carry the weight to match the Bulls.
LeBron has never played with a point guard like Rose. The advantage here is easy: Bulls.
Lebron had a very solid stable of forwards in Cleveland. He had big bodies that could rebound and, with the the addition of Antawn Jamison, guys could score in a few ways but never really create their own scoring.
Having forwards like that will take significant pressure of Lebron. Which side has the advantage?
Joakim Noah has developed into a viable power forward whose game is on the upswing and the making of a regular double-double contributor. A swingman in Luol Deng and an athletic project in Hakim Warrick give the Bulls an athletic frontcourt that can run with Lebron.
The Knicks offer a talented but somewhat limited David Lee and aging Al harrington and a raw, unproven Danilo Gallinari. The Knicks frontcourt exposes the weakness of the Knicks roster.
LeBron got a taste of playing with a pure man alongside Shaq this season, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas before him. Pairing LeBron with a true, effective big man could define if LeBron can make the jump to a title.
This is one area where neither the Knicks nor the Bulls instill much confidence under the rim. The Knicks can slide the 6'9" Lee into the center position or the unreliable Eddy Curry. The Bulls counter with the solid, yet underwhelming Brad Miller.
Nevertheless, the Bulls have the deep roster outside the center position which makes the need for a center that much less.
Chicago Bulls fans already lived through one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history. The prospect of LeBron coming to the Second City to be paired with Derrick Rose no doubt has them thinking another dynasty is a distinct possibility.
In New York, Knicks fans have become so disenfranchised by their team's decade-long mediocrity. However, we've had seen how Knicks fans have responded to LeBron's sheer presence inside Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks have not won a title in 40 years, and though MSG has felt more like a morgue than a sports arena during Knicks games over the last decade, it has the ability to bounce back.
It is New York City where everybody loves a winner. Win in Chicago and LeBron obviously satisfy the fans and affirms his legacy with a title. But there is still nothing like winning a title in New York. Accomplish that and you become an immortal to the world's biggest media market.
As mentioned, the Bulls achieved one of the best dynasties in NBA history with the 72-10 record in 1995-1996 to back it up. The Bulls won six titles in eight years in the 1990s and is the home of the game's greatest player.
However, ask yourself if you know any Bulls history prior to Michael Jordan and the answers do not come quickly. In fact, the Bulls were a rather mediocre franchise for much of their history prior to MJ and Scottie's victories.
Meanwhile the Knicks, despite just two NBA titles in franchise, remain one of the league's flagship franchises alongside the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. Knicks history runs deep all the way back to the 1950s.
The burst of success versus the Knicks historical pedigree are two very opposite lines of history. But the NBA is a game filled with young stars in a vastly different NBA environment than 30 years ago, making the Bulls recent history the more favorable one.
As stated, D'Antoni is attempting to bring his up-tempo, high-scoring offense to New York that he achieved so successful during his tenure with the Phoenix Suns. What he misses are the parts to accomplish that.
The Bulls, however, have the means with the lightning-quick Derrick Rose running the point, Luol Deng on the perimeter and athletically-awkward but gifted Joakim Noah.
Despite D'Antoni's best efforts, he does not have a guy like Derrick Rose whose speed can make even LeBron look slow.
LeBron James has repeatedly spoken about his desire to become a billion-dollar athlete and growing his global market share and icon status. He laid the foundation in Cleveland, but there is no doubt he has his sights on what New York City could offer.
But Chicago is no slouch either. As the country's third-largest city and a global city in itself, LeBron would certainly have the opportunity to achieve his branding goals in Chi-town.
It may come down to whether he believes his face hanging over Times Square is more attractive than it hanging over Michigan Avenue. Both cities offer what LeBron desires, but even a great city like Chicago cannot equal New York's media and advertising dollar appeal.
One variable, however, is that LeBron still needs to win. He can pick up the all the advertising dollars he dreams in New York, but winning titles will take any and all sponsorships to the highest level.
The contract is going to be same. So that element is out the window. Market appeal is enormous in both cities. Ultimately, LeBron's decision has to be influenced by where he believes he can win because without the rings everything else he accomplishes will be diminished.
As illogical as it may be, LeBron's decision could come down to the glitz and appeal of New York (the team notwithstanding) versus the ability to elevate the already playoff-caliber Bulls into a title winner.
Chicago's market appeal is certainly no short end of the stick. In the end, if he's going to leave Cleveland, LeBron should take the combination of Chicago's great appeal as a city, its rising star in Derrick Rose, and the stronger roster and go win titles sooner than later.