Fan sites do their best to woo LeBron
It was a bad Tuesday night for Brandon George.
"The only thing I kept thinking was this could be LeBron's last game in Cleveland ever," George said Wednesday afternoon, a day after his beloved Cavaliers' Game 5 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics. "That's literally all I kept thinking to myself during the entire second half. So it wasn't a good night, let's put it that way."
George, a native of Middleburg Heights, southwest of Cleveland, now doing post-graduate advertising studies in Atlanta, is the purveyor of inlebronwetrust.com -- a site dedicated to keeping LeBron in Cleveland after his impending free agency hits July 1.
George is going to extreme measures to get the word out, and to try and attract James' attention to his efforts. He's waxed his chest. He's brushed his teeth with Dave's Insanity Hot Sauce. He's shaved a No. 23 into his head.
And he has 20 things left to do for a total of 23 -- LeBron's number. A sample of what's up next: George will perform LeBron's pregame chalk-toss routine in busy places around the city, will undergo a 23-hour "Kazaam" movie marathon and will be hypnotized into believing he's James.
"I'm not just doing these stunts to get attention," George said. "I'm doing it because I really genuinely love the Cavs. And through that, I love LeBron.
"It's been unexpectedly positive. I thought people might think I'm kind of crazy, but people are just encouraged and inspired by it."
George said he's received e-mails from people as far away as Asia who have been turned on to his efforts, and he was interviewed by the BBC last month.
Oh, and the Cavs -- and likely LeBron -- know about his site, too.
George attended the Cavs' final game of the season April 14 against the Hawks at Philips Arena in Atlanta, and said he was able to get the attention of a Cavs PR rep, who acknowledged that the team knew of the site.
"I couldn't tell if they think I'm weird or cool, but at least they know," he said. "I got confirmation in that regard."
Some folks at realcavsfans.com -- a Cavs-centric message-board community -- even put up their hard-earned money to hang a LeBron banner that read "Born Here. Raised Here. Plays Here. Stays Here." in downtown Cleveland last month, in conjunction with ilovethehype.com.
Cavaliers fans aren't the only ones taking to the Web in an effort to drum up support for LeBron signing with their team.
A.J. Barthold, a 28-year-old Bulls fan who grew up on the northwest side of Chicago but now hails from Edison, N.J., recently started the site sendlebrontochicago.com.
While George is doing stunts to get the message out, Barthold is taking a more analytical approach: He's writing about how LeBron grew up a Bulls fan; how Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are a great supporting cast that has earned praise from James; how LeBron has said he loves the city of Chicago.
"I see a chance where we can get back into basketball relevance in a big way," Barthold said. "We were the kings of basketball, and I want to bring that back to Chicago. I want to get the message across to Bulls fans.
"I've always had the idea of LeBron playing on the Bulls. I've always wanted it to happen. I'd like him to at least think about it. I'd like him to at least come across the site sometime. It was one of those things where I said to myself, 'I need to try it, because I'll be kicking myself later if I don't.'"
George and Barthold both have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages for their campaigns to help spread the word. And speaking of Facebook, plenty of groups are dedicated to bringing the King to their respective teams.
The Knicks are chief among them. But there are groups made by Nets fans, Clippers fans and the aforementioned Cavaliers and Bulls fans. Some have thousands of members. Some have next to none.
So will any of this work, especially on James, a guy who's been tight-lipped about where he might go, even to his closest confidantes? A guy who has no Twitter account, and nary a personal Web presence like many of his contemporaries in the league?
Who knows? It may not seem very likely.
But countless people seem willing to try, and they're rallying together on the Web -- a powerful unifier of like minds.
This can work the opposite way, too.
The Heat officially launched wewantwade.com this week, a site aimed at -- you guessed it -- keeping their All-Star shooting guard in South Beach.
Last week, Chris Bosh, another free-agent-to-be come July 1, tweeted: "Been wanting to ask. Where should I go next season and why?"
He received plenty of responses from his followers.
Again: What some random Twitter follower of Bosh said to him might have little to no consequence on his eventual decision.
But the communication channels are there. And both sides are using them when it comes to this summer's vaunted NBA free-agency class.
"We live in such a great time where social media can be your friend if you know how to utilize it; it's such a great tool," Barthold said. "There's a lot of people that are as passionate as I am about this, and we're just all doing our part together."
Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.