(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chris Ballard's Brilliant Idea

Ballard writes for Sports Illustrated, and in this week's inside back column he writes of LeBron James and the legacy that he's going to try to create for himself. It's not secret that many NBA teams are saving up salary cap money to pry James from the hoops backwoods of Cleveland to the likes of New York City, where James somehow will sprinkle his magic dust over a cast of also-rans and turn them into a world champion. The Knicks are one example of an NBA team that is making pagan sacrifices to get undefined Gods to steer the uber-talented James to their team.

Ballard, though, makes a great point that otherwise would drive James' fellow players, his union and perhaps NBA Commissioner David Stern wild. Ballard notes that James earns about $30 million a year on endorsements and really doesn't need the money (relatively speaking, as ultra-competitive NBA players want to make more salary than everyone else -- it's the nature of the competitive player). So, following that logic, Ballard suggests that to win titles and cement his legacy as one of the all-time best, James should sign with a team that has a chance for a title for the NBA minimum, for at least a year and perhaps as many as three. By doing so, he can play with Kobe Bryan in Los Angeles, Dwight Howard in Orlando or, say, Dwayne Wade in Miami (and, if he were to do this, the Heat could also ink hot free agent Chris Bosh, to create an amazing trio of stars). Were James to go this route, he could win several titles, perhaps a title a year for five years in a row.

And what could be more valuable to LeBron than winning titles -- he'll become more valuable to sponsors, and his legacy will not only be one of transcendant talent, but also one of being one of the top team players ever. All because he opted to take less salary.

It's a great thought, and one that LeBron and his advisors should explore, at least for the short term. After all, while the bright lights of New York City might be enticing, I'm not sure that the prospect of playing for a sub-.500 team for a while is all that attractive. Were James to go this route, he'd shake up the NBA -- for the better -- for the near future.


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