Saturday, December 20, 2008

Extension? I'm Not Biting

In case you missed it tonight, the worldwide leader has taken time out of its busy "Lebron to New York" multimedia production schedule to drop a few lines about the possibility of King James signing an extension with the Cavs next summer. The story centered around some comments Lebron made to the Plain Dealer:

"You play out this season of course; I will consider it," James told the Plain Dealer on Saturday before the Cavs practiced at the Pepsi Center. "The direction we are headed is everything I expected and more." "I definitely want to keep an open mind, I will look at everything," James told the Plain Dealer. "[The extension] is a good point. I think me and my group have pretty much made good decisions so far and we'll look at the options and go from there."

Listen, before you all start writing "in your face" e-mails to every non-Cleveland fan you know, take a minute to consider the source. Lebron is a master of talking out of both sides of his head and telling various markets what they want to hear. Notice that he made these comments to the Plain Dealer. Had the same question been asked by some guy from the NY Times, I'm sure we would've heard some moderately ambiguous reference to the Summer of 2010.
All things considered, I think Lebron has done a solid job of managing his image and dealing with the media during his 5+ seasons in Cleveland. When you are fortunate enough to have a superstar on your team, especially one in a midsize market (AKA any place not named NY, LA, or Boston), dealing with your star saying stupid shit to the media just comes with the territory. First, every writer from a big market thinks he's going to get the player to badmouth his team and his city because said writer is probably convinced that deep down the player is just dying to flee for greener pastures. So, your star is always being provoked with loaded questions ("Lebron Lebron, what's your favorite borough in New York?").

Second, as I believe to be the case with Lebron, the player is usually predisposed to showing an often unsettling amount of love for other cities because he thinks that doing so will enhance his marketability. I used to think Lebron was just shitting at the mouth when he would say ridiculous things about his love for NY. Now, I realize that the best way for him to sell shoes and jerseys in big markets is to make the fans in those markets think he's headed their way. So, when Lebron says something about the Summer of 2010, Jay-Z, or loving NY, just remember that he's trying to make himself more marketable and more important than he would be if everyone just assumed he was staying home.The problem, however, is that the "don't believe what he says" rule has to apply to Lebron's pro-Cavs comments as well. Of course Lebron wants his home fans to think he's going to stay loyal to them. Why wouldn't he?
Whether you think he's being two-faced or just being a prudent businessman, remember that Lebron has a vested interest in pandering to each of the various audiances that receive his messages. Like I said, as much as I find this to be annoying, it comes with the territory. ESPN, Stephen A., and every other talking head can shove this garbage down our throats all they want as far as I'm concerned. It's a lot easier to tune it out when your team is thrashing the rest of the league and stalking a championship.
As for what Lebron is really thinking, I have no idea. My guess is that he doesn't really know either. Based on his association with Worldwide Wes, my thinking for most of the past few years has been that he will probably bolt. But now, things look a little different. The Cavs are a top 3 team. They have a 25 year-old borderline all-star PG locked up to a reasonable contract. They have Lebron's best friend on the team locked up to another very reasonable contract. They don't have a single bad contract on the books past 09....You get the point. If the Cavs are awesome next year, I think he will seriously consider staying. That's as much as I've thought about it.
Just don't fool yourself into thinking that we're going to know one way or the other any sooner than late next year and please, whatever you do, don't let yourself get so fixated on the future that you miss some of the best basketball that this city has ever seen.

1 comment:

Alvaro Espinoza said...

Totally agree about Lebron playing to the audience of wherever he's at. He seems to know how to toe the line to perfection. In the same respect that worries me - if in the end his loyalty is to himself, he can most likely justify any decision which he makes - even leaving Cleveland to go to a weak NY team.