« The Baehr Essentials |
Blog Home Page
| Comedy Central and Anti-Semitism »
May 16, 2010
The Courtship of Lebron James
Thursday night, the game clock read 3:27 in the 4th quarter when Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star forward Lebron James stepped up to the free throw line, shifted his mouthpiece in and out and wiped the sweat from his face as a sold-out Boston crowd at TD Garden chanted: "New York Knicks, New York Knicks!"
James's season wasn't supposed to end on this night, not this way, and not to the Boston Celtics, but with a 94-85 defeat in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series, his season came to an abrupt end, and the incessant fervor surrounding his future began.
At the stroke of midnight on July 1st, James will officially become a free agent, in what many are considering the greatest free-agent class in NBA history. In the summer of 2006, James, along with fellow superstars, Miami's Dwyane Wade and Toronto's Chris Bosh, signed three-year contract extensions which included a player's option for a fourth year, the 2010-11 season.
James -- and his counterparts -- had two reasons to sign such a structured extension.
First, he could maximize his earnings.
The NBA's current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2010-11 season, so James chose to have an option season the year before its expiration. Under the current agreement, the maximum amount of money that a player can make is determined by his experience, and with next season being his 7th in the league, he will have reached a new maximum dollar threshold. With a new agreement on the horizon, it is uncertain what the guidelines for player salaries will be going forward.
Given that the league's business model is failing, and franchises are losing millions of dollars per season, it is likely that player salaries will decline, which means the maximum salary threshold will change. These changes would affect how much money James could make in the future, hence this summer he is opting out of his current contract, and will seek a new six-year contract worth $127 million that will be signed under the terms of the current CBA.
Second, he could review his team's current situation and decide whether he wants to continue to star in Cleveland or seek a new stage.
With him leading the way, the Cavaliers have been one of the league's formidable teams for years. In 2007, the Cavs reached the NBA Finals, but the last three seasons, the team has lost in the Semifinals, Conference Finals, and Semifinals of the playoffs, respectively. Without a championship to show for his era in Cleveland, teams are hopeful that Lebron will consider moving on.
The New York Knicks is one of many hopeful franchises in the league that basically told its fans several years ago: "hey sorry, but we're going to suck for a few years so we can pursue Lebron in 2010."
To achieve such an end, the Knicks, among others, traded long-term contracts - in some cases, talented players - for shorter-term contracts - in some cases, mediocre players - to create the salary cap space necessary to sign James. As a result, the Knicks currently lack marketable talent on the roster, but they could sell him the opportunity to perform on the league's biggest stage, Madison Square Garden, 41 nights a season, and live in one of the most dynamic cities in the world. The organization even added an employee to the payroll specifically to lead its recruiting efforts for the 25 year-old superstar.
Fortunately for the franchise, James's affinity for New York City is well documented; as is the city's affinity for him.
But fans aren't the only ones tuned in to his impending free agency; politicians have invoked themselves into the courtship of James.
Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated publicly that he is willing to recruit James to come to the city.
Surely, New Yorkers appreciate Bloomberg's sentiments, but his foray into this popular topic of discussion comes at a politically opportune time. Recently, it was reported that the federal government is decreasing the amount of aid it provides to the city for the prevention of terror attacks - just 11 days following Faisal Shahzad's bombing attempt on Times Square - and Bloomberg is planning to further the police state by creating the city's own version of London's "Ring of Steel", an area inundated with surveillance cameras to monitor activity and collect personal information.
Barack Obama, whose campaigning efforts while serving as President are well-documented, didn't hesitate to advocate Chicago as a destination for James. Like the Knicks, the Chicago Bulls also have the cap space needed to sign him, but possess a roster with considerably more talent, headlined by young all-star athletes, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
But Ohio Democrats aren't ready to accept James leaving Cleveland. As a local kid from Akron starring on the Cavaliers, he is worth millions of dollars to the city's economy. To show their appreciation, Governor Ted Strickland and Senator Sherrod Brown released a music video dedicated to Lebron.
To add to the fever pitch, ESPN recently posted a webpage, Lebron Tracker, dedicated to his free agency.
Following the Game 6 loss in Boston, James stated, "Me and my team [are] going to figure out what's the best possibility for me."
NBA fans and the politicians keeping track will have to wait another month and a half before they find out where he believes that best possibility is.
J.C. Arenas is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and welcomes your comments at jcarenas.com