- Gene Wojciechowski, Senior Writer
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To: LeBron James and his team of advisers
Re: Your next team
On behalf of sane people everywhere, an apology. Our obsession with your free-agent status has flown the tracks. It's juvenile. It trivializes a very personal, life-altering decision. You deserve better.
A little empathy on our part would be nice. After all, you're in the same situation many of us have faced during our own careers: sign a six-year, $127 million deal or a five-year, $97 million contract? So to think you could be influenced by any subliminal forces is an insult to your intelligence (Cleveland = bad).
It's obvious you're under extreme duress. Why else would you appear on "Larry King Live" (Larry thinks you play hockey)? What's next, sauteing broccoli rabe on the "Rachael Ray Show"?
NBA fans and Mark Cuban (tamperer) are begging you to sign with their respective teams.
You have your choice of Cleveland (been there, done that), New York (cares only about 2014 Super Bowl), Los Angeles (the non-Kobes), Dallas (Dirk staying?), Miami (hurricanes, snowbirds, pastels overload), East Rutherford (it's East Rutherford) and Chicago.
Here in Chicago we don't resort to desperate recruiting tactics (free cheezborgers for life at Billy Goat Tavern). If you want to leave the Cavs and sign with the Bulls, we'd love to have you. If not, we'll live (our quiet lives of desperation).
This city stands on its own merits. There's no need to remind you that Chicago actually wins things (a World Series in 2005, NBA championships in 1991, '92, '93, '96, '97 and '98, a Super Bowl in 1985, perhaps a Stanley Cup by the end of the week, a presidential race). Nor is it necessary to mention Cleveland's sports struggles. (Yes it is: no Super Bowls, no NBA titles, no World Series title since 1948.)
Of course, you have strong ties to Ohio. You were born and raised in Akron and have spent the past seven seasons with the Cavaliers (who have no coach). It would be difficult (easy) for you to leave home (fractional jet ownership, 70-minute flight to Chicago).
This isn't to suggest that you should leave Cleveland. (Leave Cleveland.) It is a wonderful city with lots of wonderful, hardworking people. The lakefront and downtown developments have been impressive (wants to be Chicago when it grows up).
Chicagoans understand and respect that you have a wide variety of signing options.
Option 1: You can sign with the Knicks, who have lots of money but a thinnish roster (Spike Lee at point guard). Still, New York is the modern-day Rome, which means you can become an international star. Who cares whether Julius Caesar was alive the last time the Knicks won a championship (1973) and that Tiger Woods earned $1 billion while living in central Florida, not New York (you share a Dec. 30 birthdate with Tiger)?
Option 2: You can sign with the New Jersey Nets. (Really, the Nets?) The team's new owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, seems like a very interesting man. What fun it would be to listen to him read Tolstoy on the team's charter flights. In the original Russian.
The scary part? It will make more sense than anything Option 3 (Clippers owner Donald Sterling) says or does.
Option 4 is the Heat (Dwyane Wade = chucker).
Option 5: Cuban and the Mavericks. You, Jerry Jones and Cuban in the same city? Can't see it.
Option 6: You can reup with the Cavaliers and make an extra $30 million. No one is going to second-guess your decision to spend the next six years with the Cavs (career suicide). Not when you have Mo Williams as your point guard. And so what if some of the Cleveland fans turned on you when you went milk carton during portions of the second round of the playoffs?
But here at Option 7, Chicago doesn't desert its stars. Instead, it builds them statues in front of the United Center, Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field. Chicago stuck with Michael Jordan when he was a Mendoza line-hitting minor league outfielder for the Birmingham Barons. And it still treats the '85 Bears like lotto winners.
I know you told Larry King that Cleveland has "the edge" (just being polite) in the free-agency race. But I'd like to remind you that Chicago has a long and proud tradition of embracing those (kickbacks) who embrace Chicago. Sign with the Bulls, and Second City changes its name to First City. The Magnificent Mile becomes the Magnificent Mile and a Half. The famed Art Institute lions bear your likeness. And can you say "King James International Airport?"
A recent Crain's Business report says your arrival in Chicago would boost the local economy by as much as $2.7 billion over a half-dozen years. I would hope that such projections would have little effect (don't let people down, LeBron) on your decision. President Obama himself has mentioned (ordered) that you might want to sign with the Bulls (patriotic duty).
Should you choose, say, Cleveland over Chicago, we'll graciously support (boo you hideously until your eardrums bleed) your decision. These are two (one, us) great cities and two (one, us) great basketball franchises.
Bulls management will be in contact with you and your advisory team beginning in July. Until then, we promise to respect your privacy (Call us!) and wish you the very best as you contemplate your next move.
Enclosed is a Bulls roster (Derrick Rose -- All-Star point guard), keys to the city and city map (victory parade route).
Enjoy your June.
All the best,
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.
A brief memo to LeBron James from the nice folks in Chicago: Sorry for the unwanted attention regarding your free agency.