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LeBron's Options in 2010: A Clear-Cut Winner Emerges

Jose SalviatiCorrespondent IINovember 24, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:  NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers player LeBron James arrives at the screening of Lionsgate's 'More Than a Game' at the Grove Theaters on September 26, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

In professional basketball, when you are good you are a celebrity in your local area.  When you are great you are known outside the area you call home.  When you are a superstar you are known globally and your future moves are picked at and prodded by the likes of someone like me.

Lebron is a superstar.

The game has never seen anyone with his combination of size and skill.  He is Wilt, Baylor, Barkley, Malone (Karl and Moses) and Magic all rolled into this single amazing frame.  He isn’t yet Bird, Jordan, and Bryant; in other words, he hasn’t proven he should take the final shot, nor has he won anything. 

His work ethic and desire to be better will likely propel him to the likes of Bryant when it comes to being a player who you want to take the final shot.  He has less control, however, over his desire to win an NBA championship.

NBA championships are won with an interesting combination of superstars, momentum, and luck.  It’s impossible to dictate momentum and luck, even for LeBron, but with his upcoming free agency status looming, he has some control over partnering with a superstar.

Which leads me to the point of this article; LeBron, I’m here to help un-muddy the waters.  Since appointing myself official lighthouse for the Los Angeles Clippers, the Clips are 2-2.  Coincidence? I think not.  It’s time to branch out a bit and help others in the NBA family. 

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You’re welcome, LeBron.

Let’s start by examining two key components that are likely most important to LeBron, winning a championship and global domination.  Let’s start with the winning thing.


LeBron Wants to Win an NBA Championship

NBA championships are won by superstars.  That’s plural, as in more than one.  When you look back to each winner from 1990 on, only the Detroit Pistons of 2003-2004 lacked two legitimate superstars.  That team was comprised of quality players from top to bottom, but they were the exception, not the norm.  To win today you need two studs.

A team with a chance to win, then, needs to surround those superstars with a super supporting staff.  Players that know their role accept and excel in it. 

Finally, it helps to have a coach who has been to the mountain before.  Of course this isn’t a requirement; Doc Rivers had never won before as a coach, but led the Celtics (and their three superstars) to the championship in 2007-2008.  Not necessary, but very helpful.

Quick recap. 

LeBron wants a team with a chance to win the NBA championship.  Chances of winning said championship are increased when you have:

  1. Two superstar players
  2. A quality supporting staff
  3. A coach who has been to the top before

Now, lets move on to the second thing most important to LeBron as he makes his decision on which uniform he will wear next year.


LeBron Wants to Rule the World

Even though the origin of LeBron’s “Global Icon” nickname seems to stem from a 2006 interview with one of his friends/marketers and not King James himself, he has done nothing to diffuse it.  LeBron is the King of Cleveland and known internationally, but he wants more.  LeBron’s inner Brain is nudging Pinky as he discusses his plans for 2010, “The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!”

For LeBron, this is entirely possible, but it will take three components.  LeBron needs a place that provides opportunities to market, to be seen, and to launch.

Based on my very unscientific of polls, Pau Gasol is not the most handsome of men.  But check out the boxscore.  TV shows for Pau while in Memphis: 0.  TV shows for Pau while in LA: 1.  Or did you miss him on CSI: Miami ?

If Pau can get on TV, what’s possible for LeBron in a market that provides those opportunities?  I know LeBron was in a movie while based in Cleveland, but guess where that movie’s production company, Harvey Mason Media, is located?  North Hollywood, California.  The distributor for More Than a Game is Lionsgate.  Their headquarters are in Santa Monica, California.

LeBron needs a place to see and be seen.  A place he can manipulate the paparazzi so that he is seen entering the right restaurant or leaving the right club just enough times to keep his face plastered globally.  Andre Agassi may have been on meth, but he was right on the money when he said “image is everything.”  Global icons need to be seen and need to control their image.

Finally, LeBron needs a home that will serve as a catapult to the world; a melting pot, a place with people from all walks of life.  LeBron needs a place with a population as diverse as possible enabling him to showcase his talent to a global audience without ever leaving home. 

Quick recap

LeBron wants to be a global icon.  Global iconization is best achieved when the following components are in place.

  1. Opportunities to market through TV, movies, etc.
  2. A place to see and be seen
  3. A launching point for global domination

So, now that we have the components most crucial for LeBron, let's take a look at the teams with the cap space to court the young superstar.

Just a quick disclaimer before I go on.  I am not in any way attempting to provide a detailed analysis of the cap space for each team to the penny.  I doubt even a team accountant could do that right now.  There are just too many variables to know with any certainty the exact amount of money available in 2010.  So the following is a best guess estimate, not all T’s crossed, not all I’s dotted.

The teams with the most cap space in 2010 are listed here, in order of money available.

New Jersey
New York
Miami
Chicago
Minnesota
Oklahoma City
LA Clippers

Now comes the fun part.  We have the six components LeBron needs to consider in a new team and now we have the top eight teams that can make a run at him.  Let’s see how they do when we hold up each team against the six components.

  • New Jersey Nets
    • Superstar
      • They have Harris, Jianlian, Lopez, Lee, and Terrence Williams guaranteed for 2010-11.  This is a solid no for the Nets in this category.
    • Supporting staff
      • See above, no.
    • Coach who has been there before
      • Lawrence Frank has never been to the NBA Finals and is doubtful to finish out this year.
    • Marketing opps
      • Close enough to New York to get a partial yes vote, but I want what’s best for LeBron, so NJ gets a no here.
    • See and be seen
      • In New Jersey?  Um, no.
    • Global launching point
      • Negative
  • New York Knicks
    • Superstar
      • They currently have Gallinari, Hill, Chandler, and Douglas guaranteed for 2010-11.  Curry has a player option he might pick up.  Not a superstar in the bunch here.
    • Supporting staff
      • See above, no.
    • Coach who has been there before
      • Mike D'Antoni is a good coach.  NBA Finals, however, are not in his resume.
    • Marketing opps
      • A mecca for marketing opps.  A solid yes here for the Knicks.
    • See and be seen
      • Absolutely, another affirmative for the Knickerbockers.
    • Global launching point
      • Of course.  The Knicks sweep in this category.
  • Miami Heat
    • Superstar
      • The Heat brings back only Beasley and Cook, both fully guaranteed for 2010-11.  Beasley is close, but not a superstar yet.
    • Supporting staff
      • Barely any staff at all here!
    • Coach who has been there before
      • Erik Spoelstra seems like a good guy and the first Filipino-American head coach in the NBA.  Don’t tell Ralph Lawler and Mike Smith about that!  Spoelstra has never coached in the Finals.
    • Marketing opps
      • Limited
    • See and be seen
      • South Beach qualifies, the Heat get a yes here.
    • Global launching point
      • Negative
  • Chicago Bulls
    • Superstar
      • The Bulls return six players in 2010-11; Deng, Hinrich, Rose, Noah, Johnson, and Gibson.  Not a single superstar, however.
    • Supporting staff
      • The guys above certainly qualify as a quality supporting staff.
    • Coach who has been there before
      • Vinny Del Negro is a second-year coach; never been to the Finals.
    • Marketing opps
      • I gave the Bulls a yes here.  No real reason why, though.
    • See and be seen
      • Not that there aren’t any hotspots in the Windy City; I just don’t remember ever seeing any pictures of Michael Jordan around town.  Bulls get a no here.
    • Global launching point
      • Nope
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
    • Superstar
      • No
    • Supporting staff
      • No
    • Coach who has been there before
      • No
    • Marketing opps
      • No
    • See and be seen
      • No
    • Global launching point
      • No
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
    • Superstar
      • Yes.  The Thunder is the only team in the list that can boast an honest to goodness NOW superstar in Kevin Durant.
    • Supporting staff
      • Yes, in addition to Durant, the Thunder will bring back Collison, Krstic, Harden, Westbrook, Green, Sefolosha, Mullens, White, and Ibaka in 2010-11.
    • Coach who has been there before
      • No
    • Marketing opps
      • No
    • See and be seen
      • No
    • Global launching point
      • No
  • The Los Angeles Clippers
    • Superstar
      • No.  There is hope still for Griffin, but until the promise is met, this is a no for the team from Los Angeles.
    • Supporting staff
      • Yes, with Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, and Blake Griffin all under contract for 2010-11. 
    • Coach who has been there before
      • Yes.  Mike Dunleavy coached in the NBA Finals in the 1990-91 season.
    • Marketing opps
      • A mecca for all things marketing related.
    • See and be seen
      • Duh
    • Global launching point
      • Double-duh

Ok, time for the report card.  I have assigned one point to each of the six components.  Of course LeBron may give more weight to one component over another (maybe he wants a supporting staff more than he wants a coach with Finals experience, etc.), but I will weigh them all the same.  A top score of six means that team meets all the criteria.  Here are the final grades.

New Jersey Nets—0
Minnesota Timberwolves—0
Miami Heat—1
Chicago Bulls—2
Oklahoma City—2
New York Knicks—3
Los Angeles Clippers—5

That’s right, LeBron, LA’s the place.  It has everything you need.  All the marketing opportunities you need to launch your plan for global domination.  A quality supporting staff of players and a coach who has been to the Finals before.

I know there are downsides.  The owner seems to be, by all accounts, a buffoon.  But didn’t Michael Jordan work for the equally buffoonish Jerry Reinsdorf?  Yes, LA already has a king named Kobe, but it’s not like LeBron to shrink in front of a challenge, is it?

LA is the place, LeBron, and the Clippers are your team.  No need to thank me, but if you must, a suite in Staples would be a nice start.  Just saying.

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