I could care less about the NBA, and will never hear the letters LBJ without thinking about Lyndon and wondering if he would still be showing us his scar if he were alive today.
So perhaps I am not the kind of person who is going to think it at all significant that basketball star LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers is engaged in serious negotiations these days to determine which professional franchise of the National Basketball Association will get to employ him come the 2010-11 season.
DEPENDING ON WHOM one speaks to, LeBron is a natural for the Chicago Bulls. Others think there’s no way he’ll go to any cowtown, and must play in New York City.
Los Angeles and Miami also are in the equation (got to have warm weather towns to get away from the snow and cold of winter months). Some even think he’s going to stay in Cleveland – which is his hometown team and where he has played his entire career.
Personally, I find the actual negotiation process to be a big yawn . If anything, I find the hype and the willingness of the sporting press to play along with this event – pretending it is a momentous event of great significance – to be more interesting.
Now although I am not much of a basketball fan (what I do follow of the game is at the college level), I understand that James is one of the top professional basketball players these days. Any team that does manage to sign him for the next few seasons will be giving themselves a jolt of talent.
WITH THE RIGHT surrounding cast of players and some luck, it could even mean some championship seasons. If marketed right, it could make a basketball franchise all the more profitable.
What amuses me is the degree to which each city has people who want to believe that James is a natural to play for them – and them only. When something comes along that threatens that image, the snotty little comments come crawling out of the woodwork.
I happened to read the New York Times the day they had a national exclusive – that James was going to be a Chicago Bull, and that the only reason he was proceeding with talks with the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Clippers and the two New York teams was to be polite.
After all, they were traveling to his hometown.
OF COURSE, THAT same story went on quoting all the people as to why a big star belongs in New York with the Knicks (or even the Nets), and even threw in an explanation of what constitutes tampering and improper negotiations.
Since talks weren’t supposed to begin until Thursday, why would anyone think about James in Chicago, unless something dirty was taking place.
Which is why I have to laugh in reading the story that was published in the New York Times on Thursday, which says it will be several days before James picks his new employer, “which in the end might be Cleveland.”
Of course, there also have been reports about private deals that would have him play in Miami, and even some meetings between James and other players, including suburban Chicago native Dwyane Wade.
WHICH CAUSED THE Chicago press to point out that no such meeting could have taken place, because Wade was seen at U.S. Cellular Field attending White Sox games against the Chicago Cubs.
If anything, I would get the biggest chuckle out of James if he were to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, which would give that franchise a jolt of attention that normally would go to the NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers.
I’m sure Lakers fans would resent having to share public attention with the Clippers – who have been such a sorry franchise during their existence. But if this really comes down to a matter of money, perhaps the Clippers will be willing to mortgage their future for that jolt of attention that they’ll never get otherwise.
Insofar as the thought of James coming to Chicago, I’m not sure what to think. People are pushing the idea that James could set himself up to be the successor to Michael Jordan (whose presence took a nothing franchise like the Bulls and turned it into those six-times-in-eight-seasons champions of the 1990s that we all fondly remember).
BRINGING A BASKETBALL championship to Chicago could help set him up as a Chicago icon – similar to how Venezuelan native Ozzie Guillen is a Chicagoan-For-Life on account of managing the White Sox to that World Series victory in 2005. For the record, even Ozzie got into the James act, saying there are too many people in New York and too many tourists in Miami. “Chicago is a real sports city,” Osvaldo said. “I think Chicago will be good for him.”
So what should Bulls’ fans be thinking in the days leading up to Saturday – the day in which Jerry Reinsdorf’s basketball minions get their chance to pitch the Second City to LeBron James?
Perhaps it is paranoia on my part, but I can’t help but wonder if Chicago’s influence would negatively impact him. Would the biggest star who ever bypassed college ball to jump straight to the NBA suddenly morph into an uncertain kid by putting on the red and black of the Bulls?
If so, I’d just as soon see him sign elsewhere. For the Chicago Bulls have already done the Eddy Curry experience. We don’t need an encore.