It seems like since the Cavaliers lost to the Magic in 2009 that it was a given that LeBron James "needed" to sign in a bigger market to fulfill his potential.
Aside from this perception being a slap in the face of every small and mid-sized market that has an NBA franchise, the media has made many assumptions about the supposed benefits of big markets as well as drawbacks from smaller cities that I'd like to point out.
You almost can't blame him for wanting to find out if he's capable of replicating his success in a bigger city.
But many have tried before with just as much—if not greater—potential and have failed.
Media is more competitive in big cities, which means the tendency to be more invasive and/or critical is there. Plus, James' star will fade faster in the light of whoever grabs the spotlight at any given moment.
In Cleveland, he was "LeBron James" and was top dog. That'll happen for awhile, but eventually, he'll be just another New Yorker or Chicagoan.
Wayne Gretzky became a household name in Edmonton (market population 1.1 million).
The Pittsburgh Steelers, in a market of 2.4 million, similar to Cleveland's, produce stars that fans know from coast to coast.
Even Mike Kryzewski coaches in a market of 500,000.
Did Brett Favre (above) get any bigger leaving a STATE with 5.3 million people for a city with twice as many citizens?
Is playing in Indiana hurting Peyton Manning's marketability?
When you're big, the media comes to you. You don't have to
go to it.
Let's assume that LeBron James on your team means 10-15 more wins a season. After all, that's why these teams are pursuing him, to make their teams better, right?
So if LeBron wants to make a good team great/elite, all he has to do is find a young team with 45-50 wins and sign. That list includes Portland, Utah, Memphis, and Oklahoma City (Picture a triangle offense with him and Kevin Durant.).
But no. It seems the better "fit" for him would be a Knicks team that has floundered for the past decade.
If LeBron James becomes a Knick, he'll follow in the footsteps of Willis Reed.
If he becomes a Bull, well, he'll need a Russell-like run of titles to MAYBE escape MJ's shadow.
Even in Miami, he might be just "helping Dwayne Wade win another one."
Thank God it's unlikely he'll head to Boston or L.A., where he'd be another name in the debate to be in the Top 5 in team history. (Unless he becomes a Clipper, where he'll have the entire Laker history looming over him as Kobe continues to unfold it.)
He has taken the Cavs to unprecedented heights, which isn't that difficult to do for a franchise outside of New York, Boston, L.A., or Chicago.
It's all but a given that the NBA wants to be successful in its bigger markets. Boston and L.A. are set, Chicago's "Baby Bulls" are following nicely in Jordan's footsteps without LeBron already, and Detroit just finished a great run that included a title.
Miami's ring still has its luster from 2006.
All that's left is New York, Philly, San Fransisco, and Houston. Out of these, New York is in the biggest need of an upgrade, with the Knicks' 2000s of Torture and the steady decline of the Nets.
Stories like these make people suspicious about NBA Commissioner David Stern micro-managing things behind the scenes.
It makes you wonder: If he goes to the bigger market, would it REALLY be entirely with his own interests in mind? Or someone else's?
I know this is still flying in the face of "conventional wisdom" that could easily be counter-pointed. Like many of you, I don't know him either. Therefore, I don't truly know what's best for him. I'm just thinking the best I can like the rest of you.
Maybe LeBron does need a bigger market where he can be away from the fishbowl of Northeast Ohio. But if he doesn't stay in Cleveland, it still may not a slam dunk to assume that going to a big city is automatically the best for him or the league.