NBA Free Agency: LeBron James Is in a No-Win Situation

Jesse MotiffSenior Analyst IJune 30, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 13:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers stands by in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Cavaliers 94-85.  NOTE TO USER: User Expressly Acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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In mere hours, the NBA free agency period will begin and years of speculation and hope will finally turn into fact and reality. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce could all, theoretically, find themselves with new teams next year.

However, interest for all those players combined doesn't equal the anticipation for LeBron James and which jersey he will wear for the 2010-2011 season. New York? Chicago? Miami? New Jersey? Cleveland? Depending on the day and time, each has been been the stone cold lock to secure his services.

Regardless of where "The King" settles for a new kingdom, expectations will reach a level that even James hasn't seen before.

Should he sign with the Heat, it may be D-Wade's team, but James will still shoulder the burden of winning a championship. He, not Wade, is the reigning two-time MVP. Even with a stellar supporting cast, anything short of bringing a title to South Beach and James will be blamed for a playoff flub. 

Winning a championship won't do James any favors either. Wade will be seen as the mastermind that brought him to Miami. Having already won a title, Wade would forever be ahead of him for total number of rings, and that could have a big effect on each man's legacy in the future.

Chicago may be starting with a better supporting cast than Miami, but the pressure may be worse in the Windy City.

Not only will James again be blamed for any playoff failures, but he will forever be in Michael Jordan's shadow. He'll have to win titles for the better part of the next decade before even being compared to Jordan and the six titles he won, or the eight total he could have had without a minor league baseball stint.

Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and another big name free agent signing would be a great start towards a championship push, but critics would still downplay his accomplishments for having to switch franchises to win a title.

New York and New Jersey have been preparing for a LeBron move to The Big Apple for over two seasons. Although New Jersey may seem like a ideal situation, expectations again could do James in.

With a new owner, coach, and a ton of cap space, the Nets could transform into an overnight contender in the Eastern Conference. Much like the other potential destinations, once the Nets make the playoffs, anything short of a title will be considered a failed season. 

New York may be the worst destination of all. Yes, LeBron would rule the city, and he could expand to a billion-dollar empire, but fans of the Knicks will expect more than just a handful of titles.

The Knicks have been yearning for a title since 1973. That's 37 years of New York-pressure built up. No other city can comprehend the desperation and need for a title like that of New York. 

Additionally, the Knicks don't have a core nearly as ready for a title push compared to Miami or Chicago. Fans will expect 60-plus wins and a title for the 2011 season. Anything short of that, and LeBron could become the new Alex Rodriguez prior to 2009. Unfortunately, James won't have a Derek Jeter-type figure to defer to. All blame will come crashing down on his shoulders.

As unlikely as it may seem, except for those in Ohio, Cleveland may be the safest pick for James. Although Cleveland fans are as desperate as any city in the country for a title, James remaining home will be a title victory in itself. Yes, they would love to welcome a NBA title to their city, but James would forever be a hero to the city and state for choosing to spurn all others for Cleveland.

The Cavaliers don't have the cap space to sign any high-priced free agents, but sign-and-trade deals could always be possible going forward to bring better, younger talent aboard. Of course if James does stay in Cleveland, all basketball fans will have been fooled into believing the biggest non-story in the history of the league. 

Leaving the Cavs could turn James into the most hated man in sports since Brett Favre had a falling out with the Green Bay Packers. He would never be welcomed back in Akron, Cleveland, or anywhere else in Ohio. 

So which city will win the LeBron lottery? The answer has changed three times since writing this piece. In the end, expect much ado about nothing, and LeBron will remain in Cleveland. Any other result will burden James beyond belief with expectations he could never possibly live up to. 

Remember, LeBron, the grass isn't always greener...and neither is the money.

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