While it isn’t official, sources confirm that the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, LeBron James, will no longer play for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
In fact, he won’t even attempt a third straight MVP award.
James will announce at 9pm EST on Thursday night, to a worldwide audience, that he is leaving the hardwood for the blacktop. LeBron James is going to NASCAR.
He’ll be driving for non-other than Rick Hendrick.
While details still need to be straightened out, it is currently only a one-year contract driving a No.23 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. While sports outfitter giant Nike is apparently tabbed for 16 to 20 races, sponsorship is not yet finalized for the rest of the season.
Gatorade and Spalding are considered to be the lead candidates.
The new No. 23 team is likely to be a restructuring of what is currently the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, piloted by Mark Martin. It is also the car that Kasey Kahne is currently under contract to drive, starting in 2012.
Neither have a definite ride for 2011 as of right now.
In a statement released early Thursday morning, Hendrick stated, “These are exciting times for everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. I have always believed you can never have too much talent under one roof, and with this newest addition, our organization is stronger than ever.
“LeBron brings both incredible athletic talent and a high level of energy to the table, and I have no doubts that they will be huge assets to the company.”
While James himself could not be reached for comment, a spokesperson for him had also prepared a statement, “Like Michael Jordan needed baseball, LeBron needs his own change of scenery to try something different. He’s been such a dominant force in the NBA these past seven years that he needs a new challenge to change up the pace.
“With Hendrick Motorsports, he knows that he will be getting the best equipment in all of auto racing, and he is looking forward to this newest chapter in his life.”
However, Hendrick first needs to decide what to do about Kahne and Martin. The likely solution is that HMS will negotiate a sign-and-trade with Cleveland, meaning that James would actually sign with the Cavaliers and then subsequently be traded to HMS.
HMS would likely send Kahne, along with expiring contracts of a gasman and a couple of crewman from the No. 5 team to Cleveland in exchange.
That would leave Rick Hendrick with only Martin needing to find a home.
When Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade announced they were signing with the Miami Heat, it became widely speculated that James would sign on with the Heat to create what was being dubbed a “super-team.” Still, the Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, and New Jersey Nets were considered close enough in the running that nothing was set in stone.
Reports from various sources and reporters have at one time or another said it was a certainty that James would sign with all five of those teams.
While the coverage was already intense, the deal he set up with ESPN to air his announcement during an hour-long special ramped up the hype and suspense to an unheard-of level.
It will turn to all-out shocking once LeBron announces to the world that, as of February 2011, he will be a full time stock-car driver.
Where the Cavaliers go from here is a mystery.
The NBA team could make use of the gasman in aid of their relatively weak front court, but the team will have virtually no use for the other former NASCAR crewman.
What they do with Kahne is also a large unknown, although some sources have said Kahne would best benefit the team as their bus driver.
Kahne was unavailable for comment.
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