NBA Free Agency 2010: LeBron James Isn't Just About the Rings Anymore
So if you're like me, you know that LeBron had Arctic Char (cooked up by Spotted Pig chef April Bloomfield) for dinner last weekend with Jay-Z and Beyonce. Aside from the fact that it's completely absurd that you should even know that, it's evidence that the LeCircus has spun out of control.
We just got through watching an NBA Finals where team chemistry and toughness was more important than any other factor playing into a Championship, and teams are contending for a one or two-man solution to put their team in contention.
If it was a championship that a team was after, wouldn't they be better off looking for "one of a kind" fits like a long shooter who over-matches everyone (Dirk Nowitzki), an ambidextrous blue-collar post presence (David Lee), or a long big for offensive stability (Chris Bosh)?
We're not talking about just championships anymore, it's plain and simple. We're not even talking about basketball at some points—we're talking about money.
Fred Mitchell of Chicago Breaking Sports recently reported that LeBron going to Chicago could bring $2.7 billion to the city in advertising and broadcasting rights. To put that number in perspective, Prop 19 in California proposes legalizing marijuana. The potential tax revenue from legalized marijuana is ball-parked around $1.3 billion. You're telling me LeBron signing with Chicago is financially more lucrative than reaping taxes from every marijuana sale in California for two years?
We're talking "people getting murdered and stuck in ditches"-type money. I'm scared for the cities of New Jersey, New York, Chicago, and any other team courting LeBron. Championships can do something for a city, but the financial impact of LeBron is beyond the scope of just basketball.
With the right fit, sure, LeBron could seize a monopoly over Larry O'Brien trophies for the next seven or eight years—but we saw clearly that LeBron does not have the competitiveness or the leadership qualities to force his teammates to grind it out.
I'm sure you all saw the same game I saw in the Eastern Conference Semi's, when Cleveland's starting squad got out-hustled by a more experienced, battle-tested Celtics squad. It's clear, just from those last seconds, that the Cavs were in "I can't wait for summer" mode. LeBron may be physically tough, but his mental toughness, and his natural competitiveness leaves something to be desired. He wants to "wow" people with athletic plays and Sportscenter Top 10's on his way to his self-affixed "global icon" ambitions.
Which is not a knock on him by any stretch—even with LeBron playing within his means, he is more physically gifted than anyone we've ever seen in the league. Which is why it's so frustrating to see that his maturity has been compromised with softball interviews and outrageous endorsement contracts. Without any semblance of emotional or mental hardship, LeBron may never reach his full potential as an NBA player.
You all saw the Larry King interview. King went out on a limb and asked some serious questions about his free agency plans, and his opinion on teams that planned to court him. LeBron looked almost uncomfortable talking about his hometown at times and you realize LeBron is the only celebrity of his stature who can make Larry King look like Kenneth Starr in 1998.
ESPN's Bill Simmons wrote three years ago that LeBron James was another victim of the "too much, too soon" era, a la Tiger Woods, and that games like Game 6 of the Celtics-Cavs this year "dry the cement" on a legacy. Well LeBron's legacy is cemented—he's an exceptional basketball player, destined to have meltdowns in the mental-toughness department if the responsibility of an entire city rests on his shoulders.
Cleveland, Chicago, New Jersey, New York, Los Angeles, the situation will remain the same: unless LeBron can become mentally tough, mature into a man in his mind, stop crying, stop power-walking off the court, and stop seizing videotapes of him getting embarrassed, then the rings are off the table and we're talking about the next Karl Malone.
LeBron, if you're reading this, please don't let that happen. And as for your dinner, I heard Miss Bloomfield makes a mean Striped Bass.
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