x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

New York option is tempting James

The off-season has been an interesting one for the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star LeBron James.

The off-season has been an interesting one for the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star LeBron James. On Monday the NBA star told children gathered at State Farm Insurance's headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois that he would buy them shoes if he made a half-court shot. James drained the shot, leaving State Farm employees to scramble to get shoe sizes for all of the kids.

That's the good. The not so good includes a dunk, not by LeBron, and a contract extension, not signed by LeBron. The dunk was a month ago at a summer camp where college players got to play with LeBron and other NBA pros. During one game Xavier University guard Jordan Crawford dunked over "King James". A few camera crews picked up the action, but Nike, James's sponsor, confiscated the tapes to protect their meal ticket's image from any threat of being embarrassed.

This did not play well with sports fans. Everyone gets dunked on from time to time. By grabbing the tapes, Nike made a non-story a story. When the video of the dunk was finally shown on various websites, everyone watched and said "that's what all the fuss was about" and moved on with their lives. What is more interesting than both of the events above is what LeBron did last Friday regarding whether he would sign a contract extension now with his hometown Cavaliers or wait until his contract expires at the end of the 2009-2010 season.

The NBA's reigning most valuable player said he signed a three-year contract in 2006 to give him more options once it expires. "I signed a contract in 2006 with an option, and it would make no sense for me to sign that contract if I didn't keep my options open," he said. "I'll let you fill in the blanks." The Cavaliers offered James a contract extension on July 18, the third anniversary of the signing of his current contract.

The team could offer the extension - at the highest salary allowed - of up to three years. James can sign the extension offer any time before June 30, 2010. The rumour is that LeBron James is considering leaving Cleveland after the up-coming season to play basketball for either the New York Knicks or the New Jersey Nets. The thinking is that the global icon needs to move his brand to the biggest stage the States have to offer to maximise that brand.

In New York, with either team, LeBron will have quick and easy access to the media, the marketing and the companies that fill his pockets with money and are making him a household name worldwide. It is hard to argue against that, but I will try. James has already become a household name. He has already become a marketing giant while in Cleveland. The media come to him. The companies and the dollars have done likewise.

In the 1980s Michael Jordan did not need New York to make himself a worldwide icon and so far, neither has James. So why go now? Both the Knicks and Nets are average basketball teams at best. If either added LeBron, they would instantly be contenders, but who knows if the situation on the court will be any better than it is now with the Cavaliers. It is a gamble. At just 24 years of age, LeBron has a long time left in the league, but he is still searching for his first championship.

I would like to see him say no to New York. I, like the fans in Ohio, would like to see him stay and finish what he has started. He is idolised around the country and around the world, but he is beloved by the fans who watched him grow into a star in their state. Be original LeBron. Stay home. ppabst@thenational.ae