Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert chimed in on the LeBron to New York rumors again yesterday. Gilbert called the media attention payed to rumors of LeBron’s departure an “insult to the city of Cleveland.”
“It’s kind of an insult to the city of Cleveland in my opinion — an insult to the Midwest,” said Gilbert, who spoke to the media at the Cavaliers’ suburban practice facility Thursday, a few days before the team opens training camp.
“People in your profession are very bored on both sides of the country. There’s no basketball going on so they write this stuff,” Gilbert said.
So, let me get this straight: journalists and bloggers covering rumors of LeBron’s departure to another city is an “insult” to the city of Cleveland, but LeBron stating that New York is his “favorite city,” Brooklyn is his “favorite borough,” and attending major sporting events in the city of Cleveland outfitted in the opposing teams’ apparel is okay?
Gilbert offered similar thoughts last month:
“The only thing you can come up with is there are certain writers, or people who live on the East or West Coast, who think that Cleveland, Ohio, is not a good enough place for a superstar of LeBron’s caliber to spend his career. Despite the quality of the franchise, the quality of life in the Midwest, the fans — it’s a complete slap in the face from people who do not live in Cleveland, Ohio, to Cleveland, Ohio. That’s probably my biggest problem with the whole thing.”
I’ve read countless articles speculating on LeBron’s future. I’ll admit, I’m fascinated with the subject. And I’ve offered my thoughts on the rumors on numerous occasions. But I’ve never questioned the “quality of life in Cleveland.” Nor have I seen anyone else do so.
I have, however, seen plenty of writers question the quality of LeBron’s supporting cast.The fact of the matter is this: the Cavs have done a terrible job surrounding James with a team befitting his talents. I understand that Cleveland is a long-suffering sports city with a losing tradition. But save the ‘woe is Cleveland sentiment.’ The Chicago Bulls were one of the lowliest franchises in the NBA when they selected Michael Jordan with the third pick of the 1984 draft. The Bulls were a laughinstock with a decrepit stadium and little to no tradition. Jordan elevated that franchise into one of the most recognizable franchises in the world. Even now, ten years after Jordan’s retirement from the Bulls, and after years of mediocrity, Chicago has one of the most loyal fan bases in the NBA. But contrary to popular opinion, Jordan didn’t do it alone. MJ had Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen. Where’s LeBron’s Phil Jackson? Where’s LeBron’s sidekick?
I’ve also seen writers state the obvious: LeBron James will make more money in New York City. That’s not an “insult” against Cleveland. It’s the truth. And it carries more weight with a player whose stated goal is to be the “richest man in the world.” Yes, I know the Cavs will be able to offer James a contract for about $20 million more than any other team. James would make up that $20 million dollar difference, and then some, with increased endorsements in New York City. LeBron’s contract with Nike expires in 2010 as well, and it makes perfectly good business sense for Nike to offer James incentives to play in New York. LeBron would definitely sell more shoes and jerseys in a larger media market. Yes, I know LeBron doesn’t receive a penny from his jersey sales. But he will profit from the free advertising if every kid in New York City is rockin’ a Knicks or Nets jersey with James’ #23 on the back. LeBron might not make up the $20 million dollar difference in one season, but he would make it up.
And make no mistake, LeBron’s jerseys would fly off the shelves if he played in New York. It doesn’t matter if James signs with the Nets or the Knicks, LeBron would take over the ‘basketball mecca’ as we know it. New York City would be his. Charley Rosen wasn’t exaggerating when he stated James could “easily become the greatest player of all time” if he improves his defense, outside shooting, and post-up game. LeBron’s potential is limitless. That’s why the Knicks and Nets are trying desperately to put themselves in position to sign LeBron. And that’s why the LeBron to New York storyline has been — and will continue to be — a hot topic. The stakes are that high.
The ‘rampant speculation’ has nothing to do with the “quality of life in Cleveland” and everything to do with LeBron James’ basketball talent, his weak supporting cast, and James’ decision to perpetuate rumors of his departure. If Gilbert should be pointing a finger at anyone, he shoud be pointing it at LeBron. And if James leaves Cleveland, Gilbert will have no one to blame but himself.