Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler

LeBron’s Choice

LeBron James, 25, is arguably professional basketball’s biggest star. A member of the Cleveland Cavaliers since jumping straight from high school in 2003, he has led the Cavs to playoff berths for six consecutive seasons. In addition to his basketball salary, he makes many millions each year from endorsements. In December 2007, James was ranked first in the Forbes “Top 20 Earners Under 25” with annual earnings of estimated at $27 million. He is a very wealthy young man with more lucre to come.

His contract with the Cavaliers ended in 2009. He is now a free agent and has been courted by every NBA front office with enough money available to make a serious offer. He is reported to have met with five teams other than the Cavaliers: the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, and New York Knicks.

James has scheduled a televised press conference tomorrow on ESPN (9 a.m. EDT)  to announce his decision. If you are an NBA fan (I’m not), this will be very big news. What makes this interesting to the non-NBA fan is James’ request to sell sponsorship for the special broadcast with proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. He appears to be a well-grounded and clear-thinking man.

I am fairly sure that LeBron James does not read my blog (if he does, he has never commented). But if he did, here’s what I would suggest to him.

Since there is a salary cap in the NBA, and you are surely going to press hard against that ceiling, why not sign with the team that can convince its wealthiest fans to up the ante outside the salary cap, by donating many(!) extra millions into a LeBron James Good Deeds Foundation (funding the Boys and Girls Clubs is a great start). There are scores of very well-heeled fans who would leap at the opportunity to contribute if you’d play for their home team.

LeBron, you have a gift. The fans love you. Ask them to follow your lead and do good deeds.

I have no idea whether such a subterfuge would violate the salary cap.

Oracle’s Larry Ellison loves sailing so much, he is reported to have invested $200 million in the most recent America’s Cup Race. I suspect LeBron James could muster fans to come close to that number.

2 Comments

  1. Kyle Berzerker says:

    I will address your question about outside sources paying King James (as he most deserves to be called) to play for another team. My understanding of the way contracts are treated is, anything under the table or outside the contract is subject to investigation and severe punishment. For example, a player named Joe Smith had an under the table deal with the Timberwolves a couple years ago. That was a big no no. I don’t remember what the punishment was.

    Also, if you recall (I don’t), Jerry West was a player/coach. That is not allowed anymore because one could conceivably pay the player a salary cap approved contract and then pay them as a coach with no limit.

    And if an outside source, say Nike decides to give Lebron tons of money to play for the Clippers (please please please), if the NBA finds out about it, the team could suffer millions in fines, forfeiture of draft picks AND void the players contracts.

    The NBA is really strict and incredibly harsh with player conduct and their contracts. If you want to read something moderately interesting, read about the Larry Bird exception.

    I hope that helps a little. He makes his announcement on ESPN at 6. If I had to guess, Bulls/Heat. Read about the free agents that those team picked up. ZOMG!!!!!!!!!!

    • Steve Cotler says:

      Thanks for the explanation. All your examples have outside money going to the player. What if the player, as I suggest, has the extra cash going to a non-profit that he lends his name to, but which is not controlled by him…so that he has no fiduciary connection?

      I wonder…

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