In six weeks, Lebron James will make a decision that will define who he is as a person.
It will not only altar the balance of power in the NBA for the next 12 years, its will also finally let the us, the people who care about basketball, purchase jersey’s, buy season tickets and spend hours pouring over box scores, know exactly what makes one of the most dynamic athletes in the history of the NBA tick.
His decision will come down to one simple question.
What does he value most?
Loyalty, winning or money.
If it is loyalty, the obvious choice for James is to remain in Cleveland, a place where he grew up and a city that needs James more than James needs the city.
If it is winning, the obvious choice is Chicago, a city with a great basketball tradition and a team with talent already in place for James to try and win a championship next season.
If it is money, the obvious choice/choices is New York/New Jersey (Brooklyn), a city where he can go and make more money and be marketed as the savior of basketball if he can succeed in turning one of the struggling franchises around.
For the next six weeks, these are the choices that the reigning MVP will have to weigh. Most likely he will wait. He will take his time. He said following the Cavaliers quarterfinal loss to the Boston Celtics that he and his team would evaluate all options before making the best decision.
So what will he choose?
Will it be loyalty? He loves his home. He has always said that his heart is in Cleveland, and as long as James stays on the Cavs, they will be considered one of the top four teams in the NBA. His presence alone does that. So while Cleveland is not the sexist city to play for, it is his home, he has friends, family and an entire city of strangers that will be holding their breath for the next six weeks hoping and praying that the local boy stays close to his roots.
If he stays, he will, probably at some point in his career win a championship. He is too great of a player to go his entire career without hoisting the championship trophy. Can he win next year though if he stays in Cleveland? Probably not. The Cavs won’t have the cap space to add another big time player to pair with James. And if this season taught LeBron anything it’s that one player can’t win a title.
But it is home. And the Cavs can offer him the most money. And he can go about trying to do the previously unimaginable by bringing a championship banner to the Gund…errr, I mean Quicken Loans Arena.
Is it winning? Does winning really, truly drive LeBron James? He has said he wants to win championships, but as we all know what athletes say and what athletes actually do is two completely different things. If winning is what drives him and if he wants to win right away the top choice for James is the Chicago Bulls. He would already have the pieces in place to contend next season with the Orlando Magic for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Derrick Rose would play the Scottie Pippen role, Joakim Noah would play Dennis Rodman, Luol Deng would play Toni Kukoc and Kirk Hinrich would play the role of Steve Kerr. James would be the lead, doing his best Michael Jordan impersonation in the house that MJ built. He would have his all-star sidekick in Rose, his hard-working big man in Noah and a cast of talented role players that could get James’s his first championship, while bringing Chicago basketball back to prominence.
Is it money? If it is, the choice is New York, whether it’s the Nets or the Knicks. If James wants to become a global figure bigger than any athlete ever his choice will be New York. It is Nike’s, Gatorade’s and the entire city of New York’s dream to have the No. 1 athlete in the No. 1 city in the world.
Both teams though would be projects. He probably wouldn’t be able to win a championship next season as either a Knick or a Net, but that is not to say he wouldn’t capture a ring in a few years. The Nets seem to have more flexibility with cap and draft picks than the Knicks as well as a new billionaire owner, but the Knicks are well the Knicks, and David Stern would love to have the game’s top player in the leagues top market. And if he can win in New York, maybe he will finally be able to earn the nickname that he gave to himself but has yet to prove is warranted. Winning a title inside Madison Square Garden would certainly do that.
So we wait, six weeks for the sports top player to make his decision.
We will all be witness.