Wednesday, July 9, 2008
LeBron James and Jay Z Will they be together?
Immediately after winning the NBA Draft Lottery in 2003, the Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans knew that two things were certain. Unfortunately for them, the second inevitability might end up trumping the first.
For obvious starters, winning the rights to the first pick of the draft allowed the Cavaliers to bring in the hometown kid. Akron, Ohio's finest, Lebron James possessed the size and skills that made him as much of a sure thing as Paris Hilton on six shots of Jagermeister.
At the same time, it was also inevitable a big market team would eventually target King James. A talent the level of James needs to be front and center, live on the biggest stage with the spotlight directly on him. And despite his Ohio roots, James openly supports the New York Yankees -- even sporting the N.Y. cap during a playoff game between the Yankees and Indians.
In recent weeks, James openly expressed an "interest" in playing in New York, specifically Brooklyn. As unsettling as a simple statement like this can be, it only gets worse from there.
As if the allure of the big city wasn't enough, James' pal just happens to be part owner of the New Jersey Nets -- who will soon play games in Brooklyn. Not only that, James' friend is "kind of a big deal."
Sean Carter, aka Jay-Z, is regarded by many as the best rapper alive and has become an even greater force in the world of pop culture. At this point, the only thing that would elevate James or Jay-Z to a higher social status would be a joining of forces.
Sadly for fans of the Cavaliers and Ohio residents, this union is only a matter of time. James did re-sign with the Cavaliers after his rookie contract was up, but he opted for the shorter-term deal with the option of opening himself to offers in the summer of 2010.
While it might be hard for some to accept, James' departure to a bigger stage will happen. I've had a hard time thinking of one solid reason James shouldn't join forces with Jigga in the Big Apple besides loyalty. And if you're as big a fan of Urbs' Blurbs as most people I know -- my friends and family, that is -- you'd know about my thoughts concerning loyalty and sports. If you haven't read The 10 most important life lessons learned from sports, it's important to know that I've learned that loyalty has no place in them.
James is in the position of power with the Cavs because he's young and beloved by all. If you were to fast forward to the last days of James' playing career -- when his knees are shot and he no longer plays with the same force -- and the Cavs had the chance to trade him away for a younger, faster version, they would do it in a heartbeat.
Examples of players who were once considered the face of the franchise being traded continue to come up. And for some reason, that lack of loyalty continues to shock. Most people continue to view sports franchises as teams instead of businesses. And even fewer people view athletes like James as products for sale. But when you think about it, that's exactly the case.
If the Cleveland Cavaliers are Wal-Mart, James is the PlayStation3 or the "Tickle-me-Elmo" at Christmas time. And by wearing a specific brand or appearing in an ad for a company, James is both the product and the marketing all-in-one.
While many fans -- especially of the Cavs -- have a hard time thinking like this or coming to this realization, this thought process is integral to being a successful general manager or owner.
When looking at the Cavs' situation in particular, there is almost nothing they can do to keep their product from outgrowing their business. In fact, James is arguably the only reason Cleveland has had any success in recent years, both on the floor and economically. Short of changing the team name to the Cleveland Lebrons, there might be no convincing Lebron that the Cavs can do any more for his personal status.
If it hasn't happened already, James' skills and national appeal could make him a bigger business than the Cavaliers franchise itself. Simply, James is more important to the Cavs right now than they are to him. James makes more money through marketing himself to the public than playing basketball. In fact, Nike made a $90 million deposit into James' bank account before he even stepped on an NBA court.
So it's clear to see that James' path seems to be pointing in the very same direction as his favorite rapper. Like his pal -- and soon to be part-owner -- James is not a businessman, he's a business ... man.
And just like Jay-Z, who broke away from his original label to move on to bigger and better things, James' ascent will only be accelerated when he joins the Brooklyn Nets in 2010 -- much to the chagrin of millions of the King's hometown disciples.