- Dick Vitale, College Basketball analyst
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This is the week the NBA changes forever.
At 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, the Free Agent Sweepstakes begins, and LeBron James is the star of the show. It has already been a totally wacky situation. The Chicago Bulls have a trade in place with the Washington Wizards, sending Kirk Hinrich and the rights to the 17th pick in the recent draft (Kevin Seraphin) for NOTHING. This simply clears cap room so the team can sign LeBron and another maximum-priced free agent.
When a team makes a two-for-zero deal, you have to wonder. The crazier thing is that in this wild world of free agency, the move actually makes some sense for the Bulls.
Names like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson have taken over the news wires. The NBA Draft was like a JV game, and the varsity is about to make the headlines, baby!
My feeling is that loyalty will prevail in the case of LeBron James. I really feel it, I believe it, and the fans in Cleveland will be satisfied when it is all said and done. It is a gut feeling, but I base this on things he has said over the years. I truly believe he loves the Cleveland-Akron area. That will be enough to keep him in a Cavalier uniform.
In cases such as this, I remember something Jimmy Valvano said to me many years ago, "You don't mess with happiness." When I was chasing an NBA job, I didn't listen to his advice and chased the NBA dollars. I got the ziggy and was so unhappy, until Scotty Connal hired me at ESPN.
Happiness is what it is all about. It's not like LeBron will starve if he wears that Cavalier uniform again. If anything, Cleveland can give him more money over the life of a new deal because of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement.
People will talk about the lucrative deals out there, and how LeBron can market himself in another big city like Chicago, New York, Miami or Los Angeles. Let me tell you, his name is so magical, it won't matter where he is.
Winning is the only thing that matters. Yes, my friends, it is that simple!
Is the talent in Cleveland that bad? The team only won 127 games over the past two regular seasons. Give me a break! They had the personnel, but they did not play well at the right time in the postseason.
Is there really a guarantee that he will win elsewhere? If he goes to Chicago, anything less than Michael Jordan's six championships will be considered a failure by the fans. Plus, LeBron will have to look at MJ's big statue every time he goes into the United Center. Why not get his own statue in Cleveland?
Look for him to remain loyal to Cleveland. I have the same feeling for Wade in Miami. His love of South Beach will keep him in a Heat uniform.
That is just the opinion of a basketball junkie, a fan with a gut feeling. The VBDI (Vitale Bald Dome Index) feels that these two big names will keep their home fans happy. They will receive a lot of great offers, but I see loyalty and happiness winning out.
Dick Vitale breaks down the NBA free agency bonanza.