LeBron James has broken the silence about his impending free agency in July.
In an interview with Larry King (that hasn't aired yet), when asked if the Cavs had an edge in signing him, James said, "absolutely."
LeBron is a business man along with being a basketball player, and wants to build his "brand" as big as he possibly can. This is the main reason many experts have suggested he would go to New York, but ironically, the best way LeBron can remain as likable as he is now and the best thing for his "brand" is to stay in Cleveland.
If he left Cleveland, he would be treated as a traitor there, but not only there. Every team's fans, besides the one that landed him, would view him as a traitor and his public perception would take a fairly sizable hit.
Being an icon is about being likable, and if LeBron leaves Cleveland, he loses his likability. LeBron is the league's biggest icon right now, and perhaps the only reason Kobe Bryant isn't is because of his infamous sexual assault trial more than five years ago. That is mostly in the back of people's minds by now, but it lost him much of his popularity at the time.
Obviously LeBron leaving to play for another team wouldn't be nearly the same thing as what Kobe did (charges were dropped, although he admitted cheating on his wife), but his public perception would take a similar hit.
Loyalty and the love of his home town and state is a big deal for LeBron. He's obviously still tight with his high school teammates who shared the spotlight with him when he was in the midst of one of the most hyped high school careers of all time.
I don't think LeBron could bear the hate that would be showered upon him every time he goes to Cleveland, which is essentially his home. LeBron would rather win two or three titles in Cleveland than win five or six in Chicago or New York if it means retaining his perception as a loyal hometown hero.
Sure, if he goes to New York and brings relevancy back to the Knicks, he would be hugely popular in New York.
But if he wins in Cleveland, he would not only receive the love of Cavaliers fans, he would be seen as a sports hero in the entire United States.
If he goes to New York and wins, people will still see him as the guy who dissed the tortured sports fans of Cleveland, Ohio.
And people don't exactly feel bad for New York sports fans. They've won a title in 2009 (the Yankees), while most Cavaliers fans have never seen a Cleveland based team win a title.
Chicago wouldn't make sense, if only because he'd be in the shadow of Michael Jordan. Unless he pulled a Bill Russell and won something like 10 titles, he's not earning the Jordan shaped space in Chicago fans' hearts.
Cleveland is the only place that makes sense for LeBron to play. Maybe he can convince somebody to come and play with him up in Cleveland so the Cavs can get over the hump and win a title.
And if he can't get that other player, at least he won't have an entire city hating his guts. If he wins a title without that other player, he will be loved by that same city and immortalized forever in Cleveland and in NBA history.
Stay in Cleveland, LeBron. It's the only sensible thing to do.
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