James and Miami Heat teammates Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh have the right to terminate their contracts at the end of this season. The three players have agreed not to discuss their plans until after the playoffs this spring.
Celtic's President of basketball operations Danny Ainge will make a run at James. He'd be a fool if If he didn't and this is why.
James could come play in Boston. The reasons have less to do with playing basketball than one might think. "Lebron James, Inc." benefits by being in the right market and the NBA benefits when it's best players are wearing the right uniforms. It is not just about contracts as one can surmise by James current pay in Miami. At $19 million a year James is tied with teammate Chris Bosh for 8th in the NBA. In the world of the NBA salary cap, sometimes, it's not all about what a team pays you.
From Forbes...."James is the NBA's biggest endorsement star, thanks to deals with Nike, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Samsung and others. Sales of his signature Nike shoes rose 50% to $300 million in the US in 2012...."
With an estimate of close to $80 million in endorsement deals this year, clean living, well spoken family man Lebron James has nowhere to go but up and a franchise with one of the greatest winning traditions in professional sports would be a more than adequate landing spot for one of the NBA's top stars.
He took the salary hit to win in Miami and it has paid off for "Lebron, Inc." Speculation has Bosh and or Wade looking at the Los Angeles Lakers, setting up a dream scenario for ESPN and the NBA. The money riding on Lakers Celtics finals is a time tested home run. A media analyst will talk about market size and TV ratings for San Antonio and Miami giving support to the value of their markets both nationwide and worldwide in supporting the NBA.
They can talk all they want, there are 75 year old grandmothers in Budapest, Hungary who know "Celtics Lakers." These two franchises are the NBA. Combined, they represent 33 world championships out of a total of 67. The rivalry started in 1959 and is one of the reasons the NBA is what it is today. " NBA Christmas TV 2013" was missing the biggest present of all under the tree...Boston vs. LA
Wade and or Bosh to the Lakers with James to the Celtics is possible as it is an effective "business play." The companies that "are" the three players benefit, the two greatest franchises in NBA history benefit and the National Basketball Association benefits. It is, in fact, a win, win, win.
To complete this trifecta, Ainge must assemble a basketball team that will attract James and get to the NBA finals. Lebron James, who some regard as one of the greatest to ever play the game, will require the right team to succeed and the Celtic's Ainge has a long way to go.
Of course, Ainge has done this before. In a few short weeks of July of 2007, he traded a top draft pick and a collection of lesser known players from a 24-58 team to assemble a roster that would post a 66-16 regular season record and go on to win the franchises' 17th world championship.
James would assuredly consider playing in Boston the home of an NBA record 31 hall of famers. A player looking to complete his legacy would have to consider playing in the shadows of his sport's all time greats. There is a match, but....
The Celtics, much as they did in the summer of 2007, are a team that is fully engaged in a rebuild. The trades of future hall of famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets along with the departure of head coach Doc Rivers have left the NBA's grand old team looking for an identity.
Ainge will need to use the few assets he has to assemble four starters who will both complement James and, more importantly, win. Ainge had a good teacher. Red Auerbach, the man whom many regard as the most successful coach/executive in the history of professional sports, picked Ainge 31st in the 1981 NBA draft and again in 2003 as Executive Director of basketball operations.
Ainge is charged with building a front court that matches those of ages past. A center who will take his place in a string of hall of famers including Bill Russell, Dave Cowens and Robert Parish who represent more titles than any three centers in league history. Auerbach's design always called for a center who would be a defensive force and Ainge will not stray from this rule.
Ainge will need to bring in still another star who can score and rebound at the highest level. The acquisition of same will be a challenge for Ainge who has one all star in Rajon Rondo and a raft of draft picks assembled through trades this off season. Suitors for Rondo have been calling and include the Detroit Pistons, the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knickerbockers. The question will remain, between today and July of 2014 will Ainge be able to put together the deal that will secure the services of one of the league's dominant players?