Feb 12, 2010, 1:46 PM EDT
There is nothing quite as much fun as speculating on where LeBron might go this summer. New York? New Jersey? Chicago?
However, the smart money has always been on Cleveland. When Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thompson asked 12 team executives, seven said he was staying for sure and three more said it was a 50/50 call. Just two said he would go to New York.
There’s the money argument for LeBron — the Cavaliers can offer about $30 million more for him than any other team. However, with what he makes in off-the-court endorsements that is not a huge consideration. What helps those endorsements is winning a championship, and despite what a handful of myopic New Yorkers think, the Cavaliers roster is far deeper and better than the rebuilding project that is the Knicks.
Thompson adds that there is the love factor.
The other reason for LeBron to stay in Cleveland is that he needs to be loved, not only because he is a naturally affable guy, but because his goal of becoming a global icon along the lines of Michael Jordan depends on people really, really liking him. The Cavaliers are not just any franchise; they are James’s hometown team. If he were to walk out on a struggling city — where unemployment is nearly 11 percent — then he’ll find a lot of people suddenly cheering for him to lose. Said a Western GM, “If he leaves Cleveland for New York, he’ll never sell another shoe in the Midwest and another shoe in a small market, because people will be so insulted.”
Right now, the Cavs are the best team in the NBA and in an increasingly interconnected world he does not need to be in New York to be a global icon. No matter what New Yorkers think. The bottom line is that for once, Drew Carey may have been right: Cleveland Rocks.
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