The world waits for LeBron to leave, but he’ll stay

This is what passes for architecture in downtown Cleveland.

This is what passes for architecture in beautiful downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

As I type, there are 42 days, 16 hours, 18 minutes and nine seconds until LeBron James becomes a free agent. I know this because ESPN.com has unveiled its LeBron Tracker. I know one thing more: By the time LeBron does choose, the Worldwide Leader’s four-wall coverage of Terrell Owens and Brett Favre will be seen as comparative models of understatement.

It is, we must concede, a topic of major weight. Taking a break from coaching his Celtics against the Magic, Doc Rivers called it the biggest story since he has been in the league and likened it to what we’d have seen had Michael Jordan filed for free agency. Two things, however: LeBron isn’t quite Michael, and there’s a chance we’ll all look up two months hence and see that the as-yet-uncrowned King hasn’t gone anywhere.

A month ago the runaway consensus was that LeBron would remain a Cavalier. Today the new consensus holds that he’s had enough of Cleveland. Why? Because his team wasn’t good enough to win him a title. What this conveniently overlooks is the rather blatant truth that LeBron himself wasn’t all that great against Boston. He was awful in the Game 5 loss at home that changed everything, and his Game 6 triple double was nearly a quadruple double — he had nine turnovers.

This much hasn’t changed: The Cavaliers can still pay him more than any other team. And the longer he searches, the more LeBron figures to grasp another sobering slice of reality: There’s nowhere he can go that will guarantee him winning a title next season, or the next.

Three of the teams believed to be in the hunt — the Knicks, the Nets and the Clippers — won a total of 70 games this season past. (The Cavs won 61 by themselves.) The much-discussed pairing of LBJ and Dwyane Wade in Miami isn’t going to happen: They each need the ball all the time.

The Chicago Bulls, for whom our nation’s President is campaigning, have a point guard in Derrick Rose and a fine post player in Joakim Noah. But they were only 41-41, and they’d have to give up at least Luol Deng and possibly Kirk Hinrich in a sign-and-trade if they do land LeBron. And there’s no assurance he and Rose would mesh. The King isn’t accustomed to having someone else run his team.

The Cavaliers didn’t fail because they didn’t try hard enough. They failed because they tried too hard. They spent $20 million for the hulking has-been Shaquille O’Neal in the hope he’d guard Dwight Howard in the Eastern Conference finals, but Boston mooted that point. (And it could just be that Boston, which leads the Magic 2-nil, is better than anyone dreamed.)

They bought out Zydrunas Ilgauskas to make room for the All-Star forward Antawn Jamison, acquired at the trade deadline, and then, winking at propriety, they brought Big Z back. But Jamison was overmatched by Kevin Garnett and Ilgauskas worked a total of 34 minutes in the series, scoring seven points.

When his period of deliberation is done — down, I note, to 42 days, 15 hours, 45 minutes and 17 seconds — James will come to the realization that the Cavs can be faulted in their execution but not their commitment. They’re willing to spend whatever it takes and find him a better coach than Mike Brown, and goodness knows the city wants him to stay. (See video below. And yes, that’s the same Cleveland newsreader Bill Martin with whom I had my on-air kerfuffle last spring.)

Back to Jordan: The greatest player ever needed seven seasons to win his first NBA title, and it didn’t happen immediately after Scottie Pippen arrived as his deputy. It took the great duo four years of trying. LeBron’s seventh pro season just ended, but it must be noted that he’s only 25. Jordan was 28 when he became an NBA champ, and he won five more before he was done.

The point being: LeBron has time. No place is going to work harder for him than Cleveland, and no place will revel more when he does break through. If he wins a title as a Knick … well, Willis Reed already did that. But when the guy from Akron delivers a championship to beleaguered Cleveland, he’ll be both champion and local hero. He really will be the King.

67 comments Add your comment

Fresh

May 19th, 2010
8:59 am

I don’t think there is no reason for Lebron to stay in Cleveland. As Joakim Noah stated, that city suck. Look for Lebron to join Joe Johnson in L.A. as an Clipper.

Fresh

May 19th, 2010
9:01 am

Also, is Delonte West really smashing his mom?

JeJe

May 19th, 2010
9:11 am

82-79.

First.

JT

May 19th, 2010
9:15 am

I dont know, Mark. Lebron actually plays fairly unselfishly. The problem has been his teammates cant really carry the slack. Same thing down in Miami for Wade. I think they both want a title (another in Wades case) and they both need teammates that can help score and defend when it counts. I have a feeling they might both be together somewhere next year. Whether thats Miami or NYC or wherever. And dont you think he’s a little past being a local hero? He has the highest grossing jersey worldwide… he was a local hero since he was 15… I think he wants more than that now. And I think he’ll get it

Lowcountry Bulldawg

May 19th, 2010
9:18 am

Please, lets dont follow the LBJ hype Mark! Leave it to ESPN! I cannot handle the AJC also having minute updates on what LBJ had for breakfest, lunch and dinner. Please!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley. Mark Bradley said: The world waits for LeBron to leave, but he’ll stay http://bit.ly/c5ZO1K [...]

Deshun Heard

May 19th, 2010
9:21 am

I think he should stay cause he is not going to do no better no where else. If he stay at cleveland he might have a shot at winning a title next year. Titles dont come easy you got to be patient and keep trying hard.

matt r

May 19th, 2010
9:23 am

“The Cavaliers can still play him more than any other team”… pay, right? I think they can all play him 48 :)

gtm

May 19th, 2010
9:34 am

I’m sure LeBron will really be swayed by a bunch of government dweebs and a creepy furniture salesman. Could that video increase his ego any more or is it already maxed out?

Bryan G.

May 19th, 2010
9:47 am

Don’t make fun of Cleveland, Mark. You don’t want “Mr. Mayor” to get on you again, do you?

Ryan

May 19th, 2010
9:54 am

If I’m Lebron and I see that pathetic video, I wouldn’t be able to get a way fast enough. What a horrible place to live. Good luck selling your $25 million mansion you built in Akron.

HawkKingBibby

May 19th, 2010
9:57 am

Yes Delonte was and its one reason Lebron wants out. He is ticked at more than just West. Sorry Mark but Lebron is bolting Clevland. I spoke to Dejuan Wagner a couple days ago and this stuff about West is true. Lebron is already dreaming up his future in another city.

Shane

May 19th, 2010
10:10 am

I remember when ESPN was actually a news organization.

Now that they are ABC and actually show the games they are not much more than Carnival Barkers.

Tom Mees would roll over in his grave.

jojo sunshine

May 19th, 2010
10:19 am

You are writing about Lebron? Why not write an article about the draft pick we have and need to couple with Joe Johnson in a sign and trade and try to get that first pick, second pick or third pick. We have got to make some head way. Coaching will take of itself so do not write about it. Give us something to sink our teeth into. Scenario’s, scenario’s, scenario’s.

Benjamin

May 19th, 2010
10:19 am

LBJ is gone, MB. My personal take, anyway.

Cleveland may be home, but they’re not going to win a championship as presently constructed, and Chicago has an outstanding young nucleus to offer him plus the cap space to get him and another talented player. New York’s got the bright lights and Madison Square plus the cap space to go beyond LBJ in signings.

I don’t see him coming back…

The REAL question is, with Mike Woodson gone, does Josh Chilldress return? :)

yep

May 19th, 2010
10:27 am

I think that Russian fella in Jersey is gonna offer Lebron a bajillion dollars and Lebron will be a Net.

clay

May 19th, 2010
10:27 am

HAHAHA. that video is so freakin pathetic. I cant believe those people actually really went and did that. I mean its one thing to talk about doing it and another to go out and actually do it. How sad. If I were Lebron I would be gone already to wherever else he wants to go and play.

Traci

May 19th, 2010
10:30 am

I agree Mark, no city will love and revel in the glory of all that is Lebron James like Cleveland does… and for the people who say we “suck;” maybe you shouldn’t make such generalized statements about a place you actually know nothing about. I love Cleveland. I love Lebron. I hope/think he will stay.

Bryan G.

May 19th, 2010
10:31 am

That is the worst…video…ever

Traci

May 19th, 2010
10:33 am

….. and if you actually live in Cleveland and know who those people are… and understand the satire… that video is pretty hilarious. But what do I know… i live in Cleveland

hawkfan

May 19th, 2010
10:37 am

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They video was lame as hell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Them Suckers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Get to steppin.

Shane

May 19th, 2010
10:37 am

But what do I know… i live in Cleveland

Exactly. If you had any sense you would have left a long time ago.

As the great Lewis Grizzard once said ” there are people all over the country tonight celebrating because they have been transferred to Atlanta. No where is anyone celebrating being transferred to Cleveland.”

Shane

May 19th, 2010
10:39 am

If America were the human body Cleveland would be somewhere around the armpit.

Traci

May 19th, 2010
10:43 am

smells like teen spirit.. you ass

Loyal Homer

May 19th, 2010
10:44 am

The ghost of Lyndon Baines Johnson

May 19th, 2010
10:54 am

Uh, fellas, it seems to me that this basketball player’s initials are L.J., not LBJ, as I have been known for decades now. Straighten that out will you?

Andy

May 19th, 2010
11:06 am

I saw that Russian billionaire owner of the Nets on the lottery show last night and he’s kind of a scary dude. I thought it was interesting what he said. He said that he wanted to win an NBA championship as quickly as possible and that he wanted to make the Nets a global brand. The only way to make the Nets a global brand is to sign James. He would also help out with the winning part. Don’t know what their cap situation is but it seems to me that this guy would do whatever it takes to sign him.

Section 303

May 19th, 2010
11:17 am

A week or so ago, I would have agreed with you, Mark. Not anymore. I think he leaves. Where to? Who knows? But, I think he should look close at the Clippers. They would be really good, really fast if LeBron came.

PMC

May 19th, 2010
11:25 am

what else would you rather look at in Cleveland? The metal “paper airplane” model in the airport?

dap01

May 19th, 2010
11:31 am

ESPN and Lebron can go somewhere and stroke their own egos.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 19th, 2010
11:32 am

“The Chicago Bulls, for whom our nation’s President is campaigning, have a point guard in Derrick Rose and a fine post player in Joakim Noah. But they were only 41-41, and they’d have to give up at least Luol Deng and possibly Kirk Hinrich in a sign-and-trade if they do land LeBron”

No they wouldn’t. Chicago has the cap room to sign him outright to a max deal, which is why they are considered the favorites to land him if he leaves Cleveland.

ELVISINTHEHOUSE.

May 19th, 2010
12:16 pm

yea mark,just like you said the hawks would go to the eastern conference championship.So that means he will leave.

Ted M

May 19th, 2010
12:41 pm

The Cavs should sign James to max contract then trade him to the Hawks for Johnson, Williams and Zaza. And Bibby if they want him.

FIREMARKBRADLEY!

May 19th, 2010
12:43 pm

Mark, you’re actually dumber than you look. And thats a hard thing accomplish.

Shane

May 19th, 2010
12:48 pm

Hey MB, How about the Dawgs getting Marcus Thornton? The question about Fox wasn’t does he know the X’s and O’s it was could he recruit. Well he just landed a big one. Georgia basketball player of the year.

Ted M

May 19th, 2010
12:49 pm

OMG that video was awful. Maybe they just scared him away.

Ted M

May 19th, 2010
12:52 pm

Mark please provide us with a link to your on-air kerfuffle with Bill Martin.

lakers are in town

May 19th, 2010
1:00 pm

Mrs. James smashed the homie thats messed up

Matty Ice

May 19th, 2010
1:05 pm

Mark,

didn’t you just write in your column 2 weeks ago that the Hawks would defeat the Orlando Magic in 7?……now you are predicting LeBron staying, huh? Wish we could gamble on this…..just “riverside” Bradley and you could win a lot of payola!!!

Ted M

May 19th, 2010
1:10 pm

Someone on ESPN had the bulldogs ranked 25 in the first basketball poll for next season. That was 2 weeks ago long before Marcus Thornton.

What can we expect now?

No Woody for Me

May 19th, 2010
1:17 pm

Ted M says: “The Cavs should sign James to max contract then trade him to the Hawks for Johnson, Williams and Zaza. And Bibby if they want him.”

I only think this is doable if the Hawks sweeten the deal with two hubcaps, some magic beans and used set of dentures.

Ted M

May 19th, 2010
1:19 pm

It was Andy Kats. Here is what he said.

25. Georgia: If you’re looking for a sleeper in the 25 slot, then I’ve got one in Georgia. The Bulldogs have two of the top talents in the SEC in Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie. If you haven’t seen these two perform, you’re missing a good show. UGA also adds a terrific scorer in Tennessee State transfer Gerald Robinson Jr. The Bulldogs slowly developed into a big-time pest in their first year under Mark Fox. Remember, this team beat Illinois, took out Georgia Tech and Florida, crushed Tennessee and Vanderbilt and gave Kentucky a serious scare in Lexington. Georgia will be taken seriously from the outset next season. Don’t sleep on the Dawgs.

Ted M

May 19th, 2010
1:20 pm

yup that would do it. I was joking by the way.

jbees

May 19th, 2010
1:26 pm

Wow is everyone in Atlanta illiterate? If Atlanta were part of the human body it would be the a** hole. How could you hill jacks say Cleveland sucks?

Chris

May 19th, 2010
1:30 pm

I’m from Cleveland, and “still” a huge fan of Cleveland sports, but I were LeBron james, I would be completely creeped out by this video. In fact, it still creeps me out. What an embarrassing mess this is to people of Ohio, and the city of Cleveland. Good grief.

Ted M

May 19th, 2010
1:39 pm

Mark are you taking a long lunch? Dining on fried lobster tails w/a horseradish tarter sauce while sipping 20 yr old single malt scotch.

Please tell me you’re not having an Appletini.

Ted Striker

May 19th, 2010
1:43 pm

James’ biggest upside — financially and feeling the love — comes in Cleveland. Even if another team offers him ridiculously more payroll money, James still stands to make even more ridiculous endorsement money by staying put.

When you’re an international brand, it doesn’t matter if some other city has more zip codes. He’s not only a great athlete, he’s a statistical analogy of financial principles where the sum is greater than the parts.

Wrap your mind around that over a cocktail.

Lebron James

May 19th, 2010
1:44 pm

I’m going to Minnesota. Shock the world!

Carpet Bagger

May 19th, 2010
2:15 pm

@ Fresh “that city suck”
And you know this how? Did you take a Greyhound bus up north for a visit to the “Rock & Roll HOF” or did you just listen to your peeps in the trailer park? Cleveland is a great American city. The people there have heart and are all about family. You know wife, kids, all that stuff. It’s not like when you, Fresh, have to write yo three baby’s momma a forty dolla check each on da first of the month when your unemployment cheese comes through. But dat city suck cause some crybaby, silver spoon, athlete says it sucks? And about your nonsense with Joe Johnson and LeBron going to L.A it’s not even a possibility. No one is going to choose to play for the Clippers.

bobdog

May 19th, 2010
2:28 pm

the knicks will get lebron. they will trade for tony parker, and wil get either amare or bosh to sign as well. It will be similar to what boston did just a few years ago, going from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best overnight. those 3 along with david lee and whatever role players they select will become one of the favorites in the eastern conference.