With Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade announcing today they’ll both sign/re-sign with the Miami Heat, the free agent picture in the NBA has gotten a whole lot clearer. The only top star left to sign (assuming you don’t consider Carlos Boozer a top star) is Lebron James. Today on ESPN, Chris Broussard reported there are really only four teams still alive in the Lebron sweepstakes (in order of likelihood): Miami, Cleveland, New York, and Chicago. If Lebron does choose Miami, I would assert it proves undoubtedly all Lebron James cares about is winning. Here’s why:
1.) He’ll be taking a pay cut: For all three stars to sign with Miami (Bosh, Wade, and James), each will need to sign for below the maximum they could have received elsewhere. On top of that, if Lebron re-signed with Cleveland, he would make more than the maximum any other team could offer him.
2.) The Heat won’t be HIS team: If Lebron goes to Miami, no matter what he does, the Heat will remain Dwyane Wade’s team. Wade’s already won a championship there, so unless Wade suffers a career-threatening injury, there’s no way Lebron is going to surpass him. Lebron’s nickname is King James, but he sure won’t be King of Miami. Which ties into my third point…
3.) He’ll damage his brand: Lebron’s one of the best two players in the league, some would argue he’s the best, playing second fiddle to Wade is going to kill the brand he’s built. He’s no longer going to be compared to Michael Jordan, now he’ll be compared to Scottie Pippen. Alex Rodriguez took a similar risk in going to the Yankees (where he has and will always play second fiddle to Derek Jeter), but the difference is A-Rod wasn’t taking a huge paycut (in fact, he’s making a boatload of cash) and he went from an awful team to the most successful sports franchise on the planet. Neither of those would be true for Lebron.
So for the above reasons, I don’t think Lebron James is going to sign with the Miami Heat. While playing alongside Bosh and Wade will give him a better shot at a title, it doesn’t guarantee him that elusive ring. And even if he did win a ring in Miami, all his critics will question if he could have ever won a title as the leader of a team. I think this is why his likelihood of signing with the New York Knicks has increased in the past few days. The latest rumor is Carmelo Anthony wants to come to New York next year and the threesome of Stoudamire, James and Anthony would be just as equipped to win a title as the Miami threesome would, but without any of the concerns I listed above. Does this mean I think Lebron is a lock to sign with the Knicks? No, not by any means, but I think it’ll narrow Lebron’s choices to Cleveland and New York (with Chicago as a very long shot).
Then again, maybe Lebron will prove me wrong. Maybe he doesn’t mind taking a big pay cut, maybe he doesn’t care that the Heat won’t be HIS team, maybe he doesn’t mind being compared to Scottie Pippen, maybe all he does care about is winning a title and winning it now. We’ll see tomorrow night.