King, the NBA Playoffs and NBA Draft were overshadowed by the specter of your impending free agency. People have been speculating about where you are going to end up almost as often as they have been wondering who Bella will choose in the next Twilight installment.
The experts have you signing with different teams for different reasons. All seem illogical to me. Here are the top contenders to house your throne, and why each organization should be crossed off your wish list faster than you can say, “Ron Artest has a hair-trigger temper.”
You tried. You tried valiantly to bring a championship to that city. You slugged it out with the giants of the Eastern Conference with wing men who couldn’t help a male model find a date at an all-girl bar.
You did everything you could for the Cavs. You made them one of the premier franchises in the NBA, if not in all of sports. You don’t owe them anything, and your teammates are not going to get any better there.
You honestly believe you can con Chris Bosh into playing five years in your backyard? You think Dwyane Wade is going to leave sunny Miami for wintry Cleveland? The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Browns, Arsenio Hall, and Drew Carey can only keep a stranger happy for so long.
Cleveland is out of the question.
Madison Square Garden is amazing. So is Times Square. And the shopping, the bar scene, and Broadway cannot be matched. But when you have one of the dumbest owners in sports writing out the checks, and when you have a team loaded with shot-happy drips that think playing defense is like taking out the trash, I don’t see how this team fits into the LeBron frame of mind.
Come on, Jay-Z ain’t getting any younger. You really want to be on his squad when Blueprint 18 comes out the guy is laughed out of the rap game like Ja Rule?
Sure, Brook Lopez is a beast on the blocks, and Devin Harris is a heckuva distributor for those 50 games a year he stays healthy, but I doubt you are going to want Avery Johnson chirping in your ear with that high-pitched squeal of his every trip down the floor.
Great nightlife, mediocre fan base. The Heat “fans” will stay with you for the first few weeks after you arrive. You will be treated like the royalty you are. But then you will become an afterthought once football talk burns up the sports radio airwaves.
You may be awesome, but you’re no Chad Henne. You may be a God, but you’re not a Miami Hurricane. Miami cares about football, so either strap on some pads and become Brandon Marshall’s new receiver buddy, or feel free to be the highest-priced person that was ever totally ignored by a city.
You want to step into Michael Jordan’s shoes, and not win a title? That will make you look smaller than Spud Webb in his stocking feet. That’s a lot of pressure, dude. It could make you sweat more profusely than Shaq does when he watches Basketball Wives.
You know what else is hard to deal with? Looking at Joakim Noah’s hair for 82 games. But $150 million can buy you a lot of snow shovels and deep dish pizzas in Chi-Town. And having Derrick Rose around to pass you the rock would be sweet. I cannot frown on this option as much as the others, but I still think I have a better place for you to hang your hat.
LeBron, do you really want to win an NBA championship? Do you have the intestinal fortitude, the drive, and the fourth-quarter heart that Kobe Bryant has? Well, if you want that ring more than you want riches, and if you want daily barbecues more than you want daily tongue-lashings from high-priced newspaper columnists, than Oklahoma City is for you.
No team has the under-27 talent that the Thunder has. Let’s start with the reigning scoring champ and work our way down. Kevin Durant, the man who single-handedly got poor Kevin Pritchard fired from his Portland general manager job, was the only baller to outscore you last season. That means Oklahoma City could be the home of the two best scorers in the NBA. How could any opposing team defend both of you?
We move on to Russell Westbrook, the guy who made Derek Fisher look like he was 95 years old during the Thunder-Lakers first-round series. This cat is slicker than a BP oil spill and quicker than a Don Rickles put-down. He is only scratching the surface of his potential as he enters his third NBA season— the turnover total must go down, the assist total must go up— but he is already a premier point guard and a walking double-double waiting to happen.
But the talent tree doesn’t stop growing there. Jeff Green is a two-way player who gets lost in the Durant-Westbrook shuffle, but is a key cog in the Thunder machine.
Former lottery pick James Harden is the long-range sharpshooter that will keep defenses honest in the wake of dastardly double teams. His three-pointers will drive daggers into the hearts of defenses for the next decade. Super-sub Nick Collison, defensive wonder Thabo Sefolosha, and rookie center Cole Aldridge are also all chips a poker player like Phil Ivey would love to gamble with.
LeBron, this core could remain together for several years and get better and better and better because these dudes are just babies, yet they crawled their way to the playoffs and were a last-second tip-in away from forcing the champion Lakers to a seventh game in the opening round.
The sky is the limit if you join forces with the Thunder. There are no Shaqs slowing down the fast breaks or Mo Williamses firing off half-baked shots on this roster. This would be the best supporting cast you have ever played with, and one with more upside than the Olsen twins had back in their Full House days.
Oklahoma City has room under the cap for you, my friend. Durant, Westbrook, Green, and Harden are still playing under their rookie deals, so nobody is killing the cap with an over-bloated, Eddy Curry kind of contract.
And Oklahoma City has things the other big-named cities don’t have, such as the American Banjo Museum, some of the best red-meat eating in the country, and more rodeos than Miami has beaches or New York has Irish pubs.
So that’s my pitch, LeBron. Not sure if any of your agents, financial advisors, or hangers-on have mentioned the team to you. Not sure how impressed you were with the Thunder’s kids the two times you played them last season. Not sure if you want more money and fame than a small-market, middle-American team can offer you, although you certainly didn't mind playing in Cleveland for seven seasons.
But if you want to play on a team where all the championship pieces are in place and the room for improvement is immense, then donning the powder blue should be for you!