Gin For All Relatives
I don't think LeBron will go to Europe. Even after the $50 million. And even after the revelation that part ownership could be an option. But as Ballerblogger observes, "If the NBA's collective bargaining agreement allowed it, you can bet that James would negotiate an ownership percentage in the Cavs, or the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets, or the New York Knicks."
Maybe the NBA would be willing to go without a superstar (or two) for a year (or two). It would be a rotating vacation plan, with players drawn overseas for a variety of reasons—in addition to the money of course. Kobe as the internationalist, Bron the businessman, Melo, in a bizarre version of staying real, going where his game fits best. What fascinates me, though, is that this could bring about a change in the CBA to make stars richer—and empower them—without destroying the salary cap system.
Step back for a second, factor in his invention of the three-year max deal, and all of a sudden LeBron not only the most supernatural figure since MJ, but one whose singificance involves an entirely different order of innovation. Because, let's be honest, "the next MJ" was only ever so much about on-court style. LeBron plays nothing like Jordan; the issue has been finding a player whose off-court stature didn't just seem like a reasonable facsimile of the man himself.
When I wrote about the eschatology of 2010, it was partly based on LeBron's aura on the court, but also how large he loomed in the league's economics. But I don't think I did enough to emphasize how intentional that economic impact was.
James may be messianic in that vague, "Basketball Jesus" sense (in retrospect, doesn't Ray Allen's acting job seem more about LeBron than anything Ray ever was?), or in the ways he alters the formal parameters of the game. Increasingly, though, I've begun to think of him as that kind of figure when it comes to the business of basketball. Hired his boys when everyone said it was stupid. The mini-max. And now Europe, which could be about money—or it could be about altering domestic revenue streams for athletes. Whose to say this couldn't become the model for many, or all, players, not just LeBron or Kobe? That's how Vitamin Water so easily recruited all those celebs; it's not unsustainable in the way that cap-less mayhem—here or abroad—is. And the best part is, it's at once uber-capitalistic and vaguely socialist.
It's funny that, as we're all busy trashing Bron for his lack of balls on the world stage, he's showing he's nothing less than a reformer when it comes to NBA labor practices. Thinking outside of the box and willing to go right at the CBA. That may be a rose-colored, overly generous version of things, but the potential's certainly there. And for LeBron to lead, all that has to happen is for others to follow.