SportsProf

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Live from Greenwich, Connecticut: It's LeBron James

So LeBron will go live from the Boys & Girls' club in one of the richest zip codes in the United States (by the way, there are people there who have greater annual incomes than he does and who have a higher net worth -- many, in fact). What does this tell us?

Perhaps nothing.

But, Greenwich is a suburb of New York City, which could mean that he could join defensively challenged Amare Stoudemire as a New York Knick.

Why?

Because LeBron wants himself to be an international brand perhaps the way no one -- not even Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali or Pele -- has been before. Sure, it's an ambitious dream, and one he'd start to accomplish by winning a championship or two. The Knicks have a putrid recent history and are looking for a savior, their glory days of the late 1960's and early 1970's so far behind them that few remember anymore (heck, many don't know of the significance of Jackie Robinson). New York remains the center of the world's finances, and, yes, in many ways it's a magical city.

Why not?

And whither the Bulls?

It looks as though the Bulls might be the odd team out here. They had a bunch of big-name college players over the past five years and couldn't get them to play together, so they cleared out cap space in order to sign two big-ticket free agents. But perhaps the legacy of Michael Jordan looms so large that those big names don't want the comparison. The legacy also is so recent that perhaps even one championship won't matter as much to Bulls' fans as it will, say, to Knick fans (imagine what it would mean, though, to Cavs' fans, but I digress). So Chicago might be left with a bunch of cap space, Luol Deng and Derrick Rose.

And, of course, whither Miami?

The gateway to Latin America and the Spanish-speaking world, a hip city, but a city that won a title recently and that is D-Wade's town. After all, he's played great there, and for now he's the man. I just can't imagine LeBron journeying to Miami and saying "it's Dwayne's team" the way free agent Moses Malone went to Philadelphia and swore to all who would listen that it was "Doc's team" even though Dr. J was at the end of his career and the team wouldn't have made a dent in the Celtics or Lakers without the tough big man. That's, perhaps, the rub, and perhaps why despite Tweets from both Wade and Chris Bosh that they'd love to play with James that he might not go there.

I liked the idea that Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated put forth a while back, that James makes so much money his NBA salary shouldn't matter as much, that he should go to L.A., take $1 million a year, play alongside Kobe, and string together a bunch of titles. So great would this accomplishment be, so the logic goes, that LeBron would earn huge bucks from endorsements, add to his legend and thus his brand, and achieve everything he wants.

There are two problems with this theory, though. One, star players do measure themselves by the coin that they bring home, and they are so competitive that the thought that Luke Walton might make more in salary than the best player in the game (or one of the top two, alongside Kobe) would gall any self-respecting superstar. Two, Kobe is there, and he can make a great argument that he's the premier player, the best in the league, and he has the rings to prove it. So LeBron would have injected himself into a situation where he would be playing young Kobe to Kobe's older Shaq, and he has a good enough sense of history to know that a) that doesn't work and b) people have no clue who played the #2 fiddle behind Charlie Daniels.

So that leaves us where?

The Nets?

The Clippers?

The Mavs (assuming that after paying his fines Mark Cuban has enough left over to pay the luxury tax)?

Nope, it's probably a three-horse race among the Knicks, Cavaliers and Heat.

The bet here is that LeBron James wants the Big Apple and all of the access that being there will get him.

Access, yes.

A title?

Perhaps not.

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