July 8, 2010
As we’ve all heard by now, LeBron James announced his announcement today of what team he will sign with on a one-hour special broadcasted by ESPN this Thursday (July 8, 2010) at 9:00 p.m. ET. This is my guess on what he will announce and what it will mean.
What has been the most hyped and anticipated free agent class in pro sports history, LeBron James has virtually held the world hostage with his upcoming decision. Teams such as the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, and Miami Heat prepped two years in advance to clear cap space in order to sign LeBron James. We can forget about Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh for a moment as they incomparable to the power of the King. King James that is.
Social-media outlets went rampant at the news today and the consensus opinion scoffed at the idea of King James and his ego once again taking the spotlight in royal fashion. I can only think of one other sports figure that could command this type of production and that’s Tiger Woods. But Tiger Woods couldn’t afford it!
At first thought, this one-hour special seems like a ridiculous idea fueled by ego, money, and power. But perhaps we need to step back and give LeBron the benefit of the doubt here. Perhaps, just maybe, his intentions are not ego-driven but altruistic.
For one, the proceeds received from the one-hour special will go to the Boys and Girls Club of America. It shows me that LeBron understands who he is and what type of influence he has. He’s turning a media circus into a good thing; kind of like Aikido, where one uses an opponents’ energy rather than his or her own. LeBron doesn’t need to have championship rings to realize who he is.
This may conflict with the concept of team, as Lowell Cohn gracefully suggests, but in my opinion, it’s not LeBron who created LeBron, it’s the media, the fans, and the teams that moved mountains to try to land him via free agency that’s giving him the attention. Sure, he’s a showman, but he doesn’t seem to be full of himself in an obnoxious way. He doesn’t owe anything to these teams or the other free agent superstars.
Who he does owe it to is Cleveland, his hometown. While LeBron singlehandedly made Cleveland, Akron, and the state of Ohio relevant to the world, staying a Cleveland Cavalier would transcend every stereotype and presumption the general public has on today’s pro athlete. While he would still garner a max-contract and make lots of money, it would mean much more than that.
It means that there is still value in integrity, loyalty, legacy, and sacrifice, all of which this free agent madness stands against.
Maybe he’s planning on using the one-hour (net of about 50 minutes of sponsorships, endorsements, and advertisements) to dedicate how much he loves Cleveland. To do it for another team would be absolute ridicule to the fans and citizens of Cleveland.
Perhaps announcing that he’s staying in Cleveland is what’s needed to put everyone in place to let them know that he’s not just another athlete looking to maximize his empire. Think of the paradigm shift in pro sports philosophy if this happens?
If he stays in Cleveland, it totally goes against the new era of free agency, where the teams with the most power (money, talent, ownership, etc.) end up winning.
I love the idea of LeBron shoving it in their face by staying in Cleveland and only LeBron can dictate this type of statement. And most importantly, staying in Cleveland presents him with a great challenge: to win on his own. He may or may not do it, but the fact that he tries is more important than getting to the ultimate goal as all costs.
Does LeBron understand this or will he fall victim to the power of money and fame?