Wednesday, August 6, 2008

So long, Lebron?

Money, money, money, mo-ney… MO-NEY! That is what is obviously on the mind of Cavs Forward Lebron James, as a source reported recently that “The King” would consider playing in Europe instead of the NBA if he was offered $50 million a year. This possibility raises so many conflicting emotions in me…

Take #1: OMG… That is SO much money! The only thing we’ve seen in American sports that really compares to this kind of stupid cash is the $250 million deal (over five years) given to David Beckham to join the LA Galaxy, and he plays the most popular sport in the world! I mean, think about it… If he were to play 20 years at the same rate (and don’t send me hate mail, I know that is not realistic, just pretend with me here), he would earn $1 billion! With a “B”!! With ESPN reporting that “[no NBA team] could offer a contract beginning at even $20 million a year” in Lebron’s upcoming free agency bid, he’d be stupid not to do this.

Take #2: Is he sure he wants to play in Europe? I know the global popularity of basketball is growing, as is evidenced by talent exhibited by other countries in recent years at international competitions, but it seems like it would be taking a step backward… a step that I’m not sure his ego can handle. I hate to keep making obscure soccer (“football”) references, but did giving Becks that much green and bringing him to the US really cause that many more Americans to put the MLS on the tube? James wants to be an internationally known figure, but he already plays for the world’s premier league, already permeates foreign markets via his endorsement deals, and is about to perform on the biggest international stage there is at the Olympics. Does he really need to play several seasons across the pond?

Take #3:
What is this going to do for his skills? And with this one, I am again torn… It has been proven time and again that if you play against better competition, your own skills improve. And while the talent in Europe has gotten better (see Take #2 above), would he really be facing players on a consistent basis who are as good as those he would face everyday in the NBA? I don’t think so. BUT, the flip side top that is that the European game is different. Where the modern NBA seems to emphasize the run-and-gun style offense, flashy guards, and big dunks, the European game stresses fundamentals and focuses much more on low post play. Although, (as a Lakers and Wizards fan) I shudder to think of how unstoppable Lebron would be if he was able to maintain his current skill level while simultaneously adding a more disciplined and patient European-style approach to his game.

Take #4:
And last but not least, what will this do to the NBA? If James defects for the Eastern Bloc, it would be a HUGE blow to a league that is already fighting image issues. Behavior problems and premadonnas aside, whispers are already swirling that the NBA might be losing its grip on the label of world’s best basketball league. What that seems to inevitably lead to is a knee-jerk reaction where, in order to continue to compete for big name players who can be offered oodles of cash by foreign interests, the league will abolish the salary cap. THIS WOULD BE HORRIBLE FOR THE FAN!! Most of you know that I am a luke-warm baseball fan, enjoying a day at the ballpark as much as the next guy, but not getting as jazzed up for each season as Joe. I attribute this tepid love affair with America’s pastime to the fact that my team (the San Diego Padres) just isn’t very good from year to year. Why? Because they don’t spend $$$, and they have trouble competing with teams from larger markets, like the Dodgers in their division, who can spend to the limits of their bank account in a cap-less league. If the cap is abolished in the NBA, I firmly believe that it is only a matter of time before we see U.S. professional sports’ first $60 million (a year) man and the league will begin a gradual decline landing it right above soccer as an American professional sports interest.


Recapping the Bad Baseball action from Tuesday night...

The Rays hit three homers in the seventh inning to help beat the Indians; Tribe reliever Rafael Betancourt allowed three runs on two hits . . . The Padres rallied for three runs in the 9th inning against the Mets, but it wasn't enough. New York reliever Aaron Heilman allowed three runs on two hits . . . The White Sox scored four runs in the bottom of the 14th inning to beat the Tigers. Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya was the guy who literally threw the game away; he allowed the four runs on three hits . . . The Braves piled on late against the Giants, scoring five insurance runs in the top of the 9th. Sergio Romo allowed the runs, though only four of them were earned, on four hits.

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