Should I Stay or Should I Go? Part 4.

Like it or not, LeBron James is the most talked about thing in the history of the NBA.  He’s a global icon and a hometown hero.  He’s the greatest basketball player in the league today but he has yet to win a championship and, ultimately, thrust himself into the same breath with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Among the free agent class this summer, LeBron James is the most sought after individual and has done his part to keep the spotlight on him – even throughout the NBA Finals.  He’s been linked to John Calipari and Chicago and Mark Cuban and Miami.  But when it’s all said and done, LeBron James will continue his reign over the city of Cleveland.

His Brand

The King has built his entire brand around being the hometown guy.  Many of his commercials consist of Coach Dru Joyce, Little Dru, Romeo, Sian, and Willie playing for the St. Williams-St Mary Irish in Akron, Ohio.  Numerous books have been published covering different stages of his life but each of them tie in the same theme – loyalty. 

After being named the 2009 Most Valuable Player, LeBron could have held his award ceremony anywhere he wanted.  But he chose to return “home” to his former high school, allowing only students and staff in to the ceremony all free of charge.  His second MVP ceremony was held in the arena at Akron University, where former high school coach Keith Dambrot leads the charge for the Zips. 

He has always praised the city of Cleveland, as well as the state of Ohio, and has remained an integral part of the Akron community.  For these reasons, the legacy of LeBron James would take an enormous hit if he were to part ways with the city while not fulfilling his promise to “win a championship for the city of Cleveland.”  He would be quitting on the Cavaliers and quitting on his home state – which is certainly not the light under with James wants to be seen.

After years and years of Cleveland sports stars jetting for bright lights and more money, loyalty would cement the King’s legacy in the state of Ohio as a legend.  If he goes against the character that he’s portrayed his entire career and is not the loyal, hometown hero we all thought he was, then who is LeBron James?

His Home

LeBron has grown up in or around Cleveland his entire life.  It is the only place he has ever been able to call home and, after listening to LeBron for seven years, it’s the only place that he ever wants to call home.  He is an active member of the Akron community and still makes very frequent visits to his former high school.  He is adored by the city, partly because of the loyalty and the high character he has portrayed over his first seven seasons in the league.

If he remains, he will forever be mentioned in the same breath as Jim Brown, Cleveland Brown great who remained loyal to the city throughout his entire career.  If he leaves Cleveland behind now, he joins a hated class of athletes – such as Manny Ramirez and David Justice – who have bolted the city for brighter lights and higher stacks of cash.  And he will be hated by a vast majority of people in his home state.  Is that what LeBron James wants at this stage in his career?

His Career

The city of Cleveland has not won a championship in more than 45 years and, after this year, many people believe it may very well be another 45 years before it happens.  LeBron James and his team of assembled all-stars couldn’t muster up an NBA Championship this season so many people believe LeBron will bolt for a city more accustomed to success.  New York? Chicago? 

If LeBron takes the bright lights route and heads for New York, he will not be part of a championship caliber team for at least a few more years.  He is not willing to spend more years in the prime of his career playing for a team that cannot contest for a championship.  And, as good as Chicago may be with him in town, he will always play in the shadow of Michael Jordan.  Jordan is the face of the Chicago Bulls and, unless LeBron steps in and wins about ten championships, that will not change.

He wants to do something that no one has ever done before.  You tell me the last hometown hero that brought his city a championship after a 45 year drought – that is something no one has ever done before.

He owns the city of Cleveland and is the reason for its steady economy.  Dan Gilbert has proven that he is more than willing to spend money on high caliber players that portray similar character to that of his young superstar.  He went out and got Shaquille O’Neal in the offseason and acquired Antawn Jamison via trade prior to the deadline.  And he has always pampered his young King with weekend retreats to his estate, where LeBron was able to gather with names such as Warren Buffet and learn more about the function of business.

LeBron is an athlete and an entertainer.  But, above all, LeBron is a businessman.  It seems rather obvious that his brand and his business would grow if he headed for New York.  But it would falter elsewhere.

If he turns his back on the only place that he has ever called home, there will likely be strong repercussions that can only hurt his business.  So is a shift in scenery a good move for the King?

In seven years, LeBron has painted this picture of himself with undeniable charisma, unquestionable character and his seemingly flawless personality.  But if he leaves Cleveland now, he’s a quitter and a villain to the city.

That’s why he won’t.  LeBron James will be in a Cavaliers uniform next year because that is what’s best for his brand, his family and his career.  He doesn’t need Cleveland, per say.  But Cleveland is a big part of LeBron James.  Without Cleveland, without his loyalty, and without his character, what does LeBron James have?  Who is he, really?

He is a Cavalier.  He is number six.  And he is King James.

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