Prince Hamlet has nothing on King James. #23 has held the sporting world hostage for the past couple years as several fan bases (including mine, the Knicks) have waited on baited breath to find out where LeBron will decide to go this summer, all the while seducing themselves into thinking that the self-appointed Chosen One just might don their team's colors come Fall 2010. Lots of ink and e-ink has been used on speculating where LeBron will go when he eventually opts out of his contract on July 1, but I'm no psychology expert, so I'll just stick to the facts. Here are a few:
LeBron's Current Teammates Are Trash
They are. LeBron is the only person in the top 50 of John Hollinger's player efficiency rating system, which is designed to measure players' overall statistical performance (LeBron, by the way, happens to be ranked #1). By contrast, the Lakers and Celtics both have three players in the top 50. And do you know who has the highest PER of any of LeBron's teammates? Shaquille O'Neal, who is ranked 54. Yes, the same Shaquille O'Neal who can't get more than three inches off the ground and who last night scored 20 points for the first time since February. Ugh. Does LeBron want to keep trying with this group or start fresh somewhere else? We'll see.
LeBron is From Ohio
Sucks for him, I know. But this has to weigh into his thinking. It will be a punch to the gut of his hometown if he leaves town before at least winning a championship. He's always spoken about his love for Akron -- can he, in good conscience, walk away and let down his hometown? We'll see.
LeBron Wants to be the First Billionaire Athlete
If this were 50 years ago, he would have to be in a major city to have global icon aspirations. In today's world, location doesn't matter nearly as much. He could be involved in marketing campaigns in Cleveland that would provide him with an insane amount of exposure. He doesn't need a place like New York to do that. However, New York undeniably has more marketing tools at its disposal. Mike, a loyal Couchwarmers reader, proposed the idea of a LeBron James television channel or a LeBron James subway line. Outlandish ideas, yes, but that kind of creativity can be tapped in New York in a much larger degree than it can in Cleveland. Does LeBron care about his own subway line? We'll see.
If the Cavs Don't Win This Year, LeBron Might Want to Leave
He may decide his team isn't good enough. Or maybe he already did when he went 3-14 from the field last night and was timid, uninterested and just plain bad throughout the game. He may prefer to build the team around him, as New York will allow him to do. Will losing make him want to leave? We'll see.
If the Cavs Do Win This Year, LeBron Might Want to Leave
He may feel like he accomplished what he set out to accomplish in Cleveland and is now ready for a bigger challenge in New York. Or he may want to stay and repeat as champions. Will winning make him want to leave? We'll see.
LeBron has Cleveland Eating out of the Palm of His Hand
And salivating more than Pavlov's dogs. He can do no wrong in Cleveland. They're just happy to have him around. In New York, that's not gonna be the case. We lionize our athletes when they're on top (see: Jeter, Derek) and pounce on them when they're not performing (see: Marbury, Stephon). The expectations are higher in this city. Will LeBron want to throw himself into this kind of environment? We'll see.
Teams Other Than New York and Cleveland Are Bidding for Him
Oh yeah. So will this whole post become irrelevant when LeBron eventually ends up signing with Chicago this summer? Probably.