It’s decision time for LeBron James
By Fred Guzman
You’ve heard, I’m sure, all of the recent grumbling about how NBA free agency has become a circus. While the media critics of the process are absolutely correct, they fail to mention that they are the creators and perpetuators of this three-ring circus by fanning the flames for the Summer of LeBron for going on two years. And now that LeBron James is ready to announce his long-awaited decision under his own terms, some in the media feel they have been manipulated.
The announcement is scheduled to be made Thursday during a one-hour television special on ESPN at 3 p.m. Hawaii time. And folks around the world – including here on Maui — will be glued to their sets and their radios (we’ll be carrying the proceedings on ESPN 550) awaiting word as to where the popular basketball player will be calling home during the coming seasons. This is not a press conference in the traditional sense of the word, but a full-blown TV production. LeBron’s people have been allowed to sell sponsorships for the show, with proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club.
Many are predicting that LeBron will end up in Chicago or Miami, making those teams instant contenders. New Yorkers are convinced, or merely hopeful, that James will not be able to resist the mystique of playing in the Big Apple, while New Jersey and the LA Clippers have to be regarded as decided longshots.
Personally, I’m among those who have been long-convinced that James will remain in Cleveland for two reasons. First, because of loyalty toward his de facto hometown. Secondly, because he stands to earn an additional $30 million by re-signed with the Cavaliers. But, like everyone else, I’m merely speculating.
And, in fact, most of the big name free agents – with the notable exceptions of Amare Stoudemaire and Chris Bush — have chosen that course because of loyalty and money – not necessarily in that order.
Dwayne Wade will stay in Miami, after convincing Chris Bosh to join him in South Beach instead of joining forces with LeBron in Cleveland. That’s prompted speculation that the Heat, with some tweaking of its payroll, are still in a position to make a play for James. Stoudemaire left Phoenix to join the Knicks, but others have opted to remain with their current teams. Dick Nowitzki is staying in Dallas, Joe Johnson in Atlanta and Rudy Gay in Memphis.
But the interest in those moves pale in comparison with the global fascination over LeBron’s impending decision.