It doesn't seem too long ago that the consensus was LeBron James would end up in New York if he were to leave Cleveland. Chris Broussard's comments in mid- to late-May about Chicago being one of LeBron's top destinations this summer should he choose to leave the Cavs have since stirred things up. No longer is Chicago at the back of the pack and considered to be a long shot to land James. The general public has finally, for the most part, realized and accepted that the Bulls are a legitimate landing spot for -- forgive me -- Flight 6. (Shenanigans, you say? Check out this poll from ESPN.)
I've attempted to compile the most significant reasons why LeBron James would sign with the Chicago Bulls this summer, and why we would have a great chance of getting Chris Bosh if that were to happen. I've also tried to debunk some of the most common arguments against LeBron choosing the Bulls as his next team.
The majority of this post is written in a handy Q&A format.
So, why Chicago?
When you're talking about the Bulls as a free agent destination, you have to start with the excellent core. Rose, 21, is an unselfish, humble, and hardworking All-Star point guard. He would have absolutely no problem being the #2 option on a championship contender; all he wants to do is win. (Some players may say that, but Rose means it.) Noah, 25, was considered by many to be a candidate for the NBA's Most Improved Player award until his bout with plantar fasciitis. Jo is the type of player you hate when he's on the other team but absolutely love when he's on your side. It may sound cliché, but he does all intangible stuff that doesn't necessarily show up on the stat sheet. Also, both Rose and Noah are winners. They step up their play when the pressure's on and don't shy away from the big moments.
OK, so the Bulls have a great, talented, and young core. Why else would LeBron go there? Doesn't New York have some nice pieces as well? I think the Knicks would be the best team for him.
You can think of the NY vs. Chicago debate in this way: if you had a choice between a 2010 Lamborghini with Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler in it, or a 2009 Ferrari with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, which one would you take?
As for the two cities, well, Chicago isn't New York City, but it's not like there is that big of a drop-off. It's still one of the greatest cities in the country (James agrees), with world-class dining, shopping, and entertainment. Also, Bulls fans are as loyal as they get; the United Center is always packed.
In addition, New York City isn't this holier-than-thou destination that some people make it out to be. Of course it's attractive to free agents, and of course it's an amazing city, but the notion that playing/winning in NYC would catapult James to the top of the sports world is overblown. Last time I checked, it's 2010. Stuff gets around. There are people all over the world that own LeBron's Cleveland jersey. While playing in a big market like New York, Chicago, L.A., etc., helps, James is going to be a global sports icon wherever he plays.
People gravitate towards winning. Ask yourself this: if James went to New York and won 1 or 2 championships, or went to Chicago and won 4+, which scenario would be more beneficial for his global recognition and endorsement possibilities?
Well, even though a team with the three-headed monster that is Rose/LeBron/Noah would be very good, would that be enough to win a championship? What about multiple championships?
While that trio would certainly put the Bulls into the contender conversation, they would still need some 3-point shooters around them. If they wanted to, say, build a dynasty, they would most likely need one more big piece. Perhaps an offensively talented big man? *looks over toward Toronto*
C-C-C-Chris Bosh, come on down!
First James, now Bosh too? You're officially pushing it. There's no way you get both of them!
Why not? Just because something may seem to be an unlikely situation because of the sheer magnitude of potential awesomeness it contains doesn't mean it is unlikely. In fact, it's actually very realistic:
James is 25 years old, while Bosh turned 26 in March. Though they're still pretty young, they aren't exactly spring chickens in sports years. Gone is the worry-free attitude and freshness of a player's first few NBA seasons. The realization that this isn't going to last forever has all but certainly set in. Time is ticking, and the two max free agents have a collective 0 rings between them.
Every player wants to win. Some do more than others, but for the most part I think it's safe to say every player in the NBA wants to one day be a part of a championship team. Bosh seems like the type of guy who'd be satisfied with a couple of rings, but you don't get that vibe from LeBron. He wants to go down as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) player to ever play the game. Sure, he'll still be considered one of the best players in NBA history regardless of his ring count, but will he be one of the greatest? There's a difference.
This summer, Chicago is in one of those rare situations where we have a good chance to build a young superteam/dynasty. All the pieces are in place. With Rose and Noah, we have two young, hardworking, no-attitude players -- well, no bad attitude, Noah be rockin' dat swag err day. We have the city of Chicago itself as a selling point. We have a fan base that leads the league in attendance. And when it comes to contending for a title, we're closer than any other team with max cap space.
LeBron and Bosh aren't dumb, they know this is the last time in their lives that they will be in their mid-twenties and slowly beginning to enter their primes. They will play the best basketball they will ever play for next 5 years or so, and it would be an utter shame to waste that precious time. If LeBron and Bosh would join Rose and Noah in Chicago, they would form the next NBA dynasty. It's as simple as that.
That all sounds great, but Bosh isn't guaranteed to go to Chicago.
Very true, but if LeBron asked Bosh to join him in Chicago and win championships for the next decade or so, what possible scenario could arise that would cause Chris to say no? These elite players are going to get their max contracts regardless of which team they go to, so the money isn't an issue. If a player knows he is going to be getting the maximum amount of money possible anywhere he goes, you would think that going somewhere he'll have the opportunity to win and going somewhere he would actually like to play would be at the top of his list of priorities.
If both players want to win, why on earth wouldn't they go somewhere that gives them the opportunity to do just that, and for the longest period of time? Not to mention, they would get to do it in Chicago, one of the greatest cities in the world, with a magnificent core where no one is older than 26!
Still in doubt? Check this out:
One source said Bosh's decision hinges on where LeBron James signs.
"If LeBron decides to go to either New York or Chicago, I think that's where you'll see Chris land," the source told Ford. "If LeBron stays in Cleveland, I think the process is more wide open."
OK, LeBron/Rose/Bosh/Noah? Fffffuuuuu-
Just let it sink in. Tantalizing, I know.
But I just can't for the life of me see James leaving Cleveland.
LeBron has stated numerous times that all he wants to do is win championships. The fact is, if he stays in Cleveland, he isn't guaranteed to win any ‘ships; the Cavs aren't exactly in the best of situations. The thought that he may not win a single championship in his whole career could very well scare the shit out of LeBron. Do you think he hasn't thought about this? Of course he has. James is going to weigh all of his options this summer and pick the destination that gives him the best chance of winning, and winning for a long period of time. That team happens to be the Bulls.
But James has to have some loyalty to the city of Cleveland and the Cavs organization, right?
There is no doubt in my mind that James will feel at least a little guilty seeing the Cavaliers, the city of Cleveland, the fans, the Q, and that big sign in his rearview mirror as he pulls away with his belongings piled on top of his car Goofy Movie-style. But the fact is, Akron is his true hometown. If you go back and watch or read some fairly recent interviews (most notably the one where James praises the city of Chicago), LBJ mentions Akron alongside Cleveland almost unnecessarily. Now, I'm not a psychologist, but him going almost out of his way to mention Akron along with Cleveland in interviews that contain discussion about topics that could be connected to free agency could be some kind of subconscious implication of his loyalty to his hometown first and the city of Cleveland second. For example, he doesn't play for the Akron Cavaliers; Cleveland just happens to be the big city of his home state, Ohio. Akron seems to be more meaningful to him. It could be LeBron's way of rationalizing his decision and softening the blow to his fans, the city, and himself. (Obviously, this is all just speculation and doesn't necessarily mean anything. It's just something I found interesting.)
As far as having the weight of Cleveland's economy on his shoulders, check out this tidbit from his interview with Larry King:
KING: How about this city? You know the -- listen, listen, these are economic times and you are in the unique position of being very economically important to Cleveland. You sell tickets. You do more than that. You support people in this city. You're very generous in getting involved with kids. Do you take that into consideration? You've got a lot on your shoulders.
JAMES: Well, I think as far as saving the city economically, I can't get too involved in that. I can't let that be a decision of mine or what I do with my future. But as far as what I do in the community, that has a lot to do with it, because what I do in the city of Akron and what I do in the city of Cleveland means a lot to myself. And, you know, if our -- if I don't do these things that I do on the community, locally, I will feel -- I will feel bad because I feel like, you know, any time when I was growing up, if I had ever got an opportunity to make it, I will always give back.
(You can read the full transcript of the interview here.)
Also, the Cavaliers weren't even James' favorite team when he was a kid. As he said on Larry King Live, LeBron grew up rooting for the Bulls and Michael Jordan.
OK, but he also told Larry King that Cleveland has the edge in signing him.
Yes, technically he did say that. But, if you read the transcript or watch the interview, Larry used a leading question. LeBron basically had to answer the way he did; if he didn't, he could have caused a pretty big media stir and upset a lot fans in Cleveland.
Hmm. Well, let's suppose he does leave. Isn't Jerry Reinsdorf (the owner of the Bulls) cheap? Also, doesn't your management kind of suck? In my opinion, those are two big negatives, and could be roadblocks to acquiring James.
Reinsdorf does have a reputation for being a cheap owner and being unwilling to pay the luxury tax, but he has said that he would go into the tax for a championship contending team.
Say what you want about our management, but they've done a fantastic job of putting the Bulls in excellent position for one of the biggest free agent classes in the history of professional sports. That has to count for something.
But, the shadow! What about the shadow!? LeBron will constantly be compared to His Airness during his tenure in Chicago. He can't possibly want to deal with all of that, right?
Yes, the comparisons to Jordan would most likely intensify if he were to play in Chicago, but LeBron is going to be compared to Michael Jordan wherever he plays. This shadow argument is, for the most part, just a last-ditch effort by fans of other competing teams in the LeBron sweepstakes to discount what they know on some deep level to be the best team for James.
Hopefully this tidbit quiets at least some of the shadow nonsense:
A source tells Chad Ford of ESPN that contrary to the speculation of some, LeBron James does not view Michael Jordan's legacy as a negative in his decision on whether or not to join the Bulls.
"That's not how LeBron sees it, according to a source familiar with his thinking," wrote Ford. "Rather than a deterrent, LeBron seems to see Jordan's imprint on the Bulls as an enticement -- not as a legacy to fear but as one to consider joining."
World Wide Wes has been telling everyone that he believes LeBron James is leaning hard toward signing with the Chicago Bulls.
(from Yahoo! Sports)
As Bulls fans, we should be very excited for this offseason. It seems like everything is falling perfectly into place for us. If there was a dream scenario for how the 2009-10 NBA season should go in order for us to land LeBron, this was it.
- The Cavs had the best record in the regular season and were considered by many to be title contenders.
- The Bulls got hit by injuries, had to deal with integrating/losing players, etc., and still managed to make the playoffs. (We undoubtedly left a positive impression on Bosh, and possibly even on some of the other free agents, with our late-season playoff push.)
- We got to play the Cavs in the playoffs, and we put up a decent fight. We got to showcase our team, our city, our stadium, and our fans to LeBron.
- The Cavaliers lost in the second round, in five games, to the Boston Celtics. *pumps fist in the air* This was perfect. The Cavs didn't lose early enough for it to be considered a fluke, and didn't go deep enough to persuade LeBron to stay. Not to mention, he got booed at the Q! Woah.
I truly and strongly believe that LeBron James will be a Chicago Bull after all the dust settles. And with the once-in-a-lifetime signing that is LBJ, acquiring Chris Bosh no longer seems like only a possibility: it becomes a probability.
I suggest we all slow down and enjoy every moment of this amazing and exciting summer! :)