I wrote this in June 2013. OOOOOOOOOOOO YEAH!!!!!! Bust.
"LeBron James is Returning to Cleveland" (June 2013)
Accomplishing all he set out to do in leaving his hometown to join the Miami Heat, LeBron James will be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2015 NBA season. The two biggest reasons LBJ is abandoning South Beach for the North Shore are money and legacy. The order is debatable, but let's state the obvious first.
LeBron James is the planet's most underpaid athlete. Thanks to the NBA salary cap, LBJ didn't rank in the top FIFTY highest paid athletes in the world according to wages earned in 2013. Ouch. Fighter Manny Pacquiao checked in at #1 earning a cool $52,000,000 for his efforts. Peyton Manning rounds out the bottom at #50 squeezing by on a paltry $18,000,000. Despite the cap, the Association has a number of players checking in, including Kobe Bryant (#8), Brandon Roy (#23), Carmelo Anthony (#32), Dwight Howard (#44) and good old "I didn't know he was still in the league" Elton Brand (#48). There are some other players mixed in, but this should give you some idea of the financial snub the King is enduring.
With David Stern's plantation-style compensation plan firmly in place, we are left to speculate what LeBron would be worth on the open market to an owner like Mark Cuban or that Russian mogul who owns the nets. Hell, I think even Manchester United would pony up to get LeBron on the pitch, if only for merchandising. I can hear you thinking, "No worries, Bron-Bron cashes in on endorsements, right?" Uh, actually, LBJ destroyed that revenue stream when he uttered those now infamous words: "I'm taking my talents to South Beach." to a live TV audience.
Overnight, according to the 'Q' rating which determines the marketability of potential celebrities to advertisers, LBJ dropped an unheard of 77%. Or put another way, he went from being the single most popular athlete on the planet to ranking in the bottom six along with the likes of Michael Vick and Terrell Owens.
Obviously winning titles has helped that Q rating recover and so does the fact that Lebron is truly a good guy. The problem with LBJ these days isn't his likeability, that has recovered and deservingly so, it is that his storyline is much less compelling than it was or could be. He is back to making respectable dough (40 million in endorsements in 2013) but still a far cry from when his goal was to be "the first billion dollar athlete."
Which of the following story lines makes for more compelling entertainment?
Storyline #1: "Star athlete leaves for greener pastures and attempts to win multiple titles surrounded by highly paid mercenaries in a city known for apathetic sports fans"
Storyline #2: "Prodigal Son returns to his long suffering hometown to make good on a promise to finally bring the fans a title."
The "Prodigal LeBron" returning home would instantly become the top story in every sport and would remain so until Lebron either brought home the gold or died trying. Even the NFL would kneel before "The Chosen One."
Could you imagine the ratings? It's a wonder that ABC, ESPN and NIKE don't just pony up a cool hundred million under the table just to entice LeBron to return home to fulfill his destiny.
I wonder if LeBron regrets that giant "Chosen One" tattoo the way middle-aged bankers regret that Tasmanian Devil tattoo they are forced to sport on the beach. Just to refresh, LeBron anointed himself the chosen one in reference to him being chosen to end Cleveland's long miserable title-less history. It wasn't forced on him. Jim Brown did not hold him down and make him get the tattoo. Now he has to stare at it everyday. Well, sorta, in the mirror. Still... Chosen one? Chosen to add trophies to Dwayne Wade and South Florida's already well-stocked trophy case? How Biblical indeed.
And let's face it, the NBA is an Alpha Dog game and the big boys mocked LBJ for abandoning "his" team and jumping ship to find an easier path to the title. The reasoning behind his decision was solid, and yes, it worked. But... to the likes of Jordan, Bird, Thomas, Magic, Kobe...Lebron was a pussy for giving up. I'm not saying that is entirely fair, but the big NBA Alpha Dogs will hold that against LBJ when it comes to "all time greatness" comparisons and so forth. They stuck it out through tough times with "their" teams , LBJ caved and ran for help. If Lebron doesn't make good with "his" team, he better get ready for a lifetime of smirks and ball-busting when he hangs around the ice sculpture with the other NBA greats at reunion parties. Or to put it bluntly: One title in Cleveland is worth fifteen in Miami. Speaking of titles.....
Since LeBron took his talents South, the Cavs have added Kyrie Irving along with a host of other young talented players and even have the #1 overall pick in this year's NBA draft. Additionally, they have plenty of cap space to add LBJ and even a veteran role player or two. In fact, according to the oddsmakers, if Lebron joined the Cavs they would be odds on favorites to win the NBA title. How bad would Miami be without LeBron anyway? 22-60 sounds about right.
LeBron Never Left Akron Anyway
His family and residence still remain in Akron. No movers or school changes needed.
But What About Dan Gilbert and All The Stupid Cleveland Fans?
As a diehard sportstown, it's fair to say Cleveland has more than it's fair share of idiots who would resist the King returning to his kingdom. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was preaching to the lowest common denominator when he lost his shit and went on that top- shelf fueled twitter rant bashing LBJ and promising the Cavs would win a title before Lebron. Uh yeah, sure we will Dan.
While nobody can guarantee a title, we do know for sure that the value of the Cleveland franchise would double overnight when LBJ signs on. I'm sure that is plenty of incentive for Mr. Gilbert to make nice and welcome the King home. As for the fans, the stupid ones will fall in line soon enough as the winning begins.
I'll Just Go Ahead And Write What Lebron Should Say To Avoid Another Decision Debacle
"I would like to start by thanking the Miami Heat organization, my teammates and especially the fans for making my time in South Beach so enjoyable. I gave my all and I think we enjoyed some great moments together. For this I will be forever grateful. When I came to Miami, I had never lived anywhere outside of my hometown of Akron, Ohio. I never had the college experience or a chance to experience something completely different from what I knew growing up. With the benefit of these past years, I can see know how much I have matured during my time in the Sunshine State. Once again, I want to thank everybody in the Miami Heat community for treating me so well, but my work is done here. It is time for me to return home to my city and my family and once again give it my all to try and win a title for the great sports fans of Ohio."
Colin Gawel writes stuff for Pencilstorm when there aren't any customers at his coffee shop. He plays in the band Watershed and you can read all about his interesting life in the best-selling memoir "Hitless Wonder - A Life in Minor League Rock n Roll" by Joe Oestreich. He lives in Columbus, OH.