For the most part, revisiting ‘The Decision’ is a tired subject. There’s not much that hasn’t been said, thought, or yelled loudly at a bar:
On July 7th, without giving any notification to his previous employer to allow them time to revisit their own options*, Lebron James announced on a widely viewed national broadcast that he would be joining the Miami Heat.
And with a wink of an eye, and a now infamously idiotic statement, the narrative on Lebron James changed from hero to villain: The guy who left his hometown team, and a market whose economy that needed a superstar athlete so badly, in favor of a city’s whose fan base couldn’t be bothered with showing up on time.
We spent the next nine months trying to convince ourselves not to overreact to this, while Lebron countered by seemingly going through a playbook of things people hate about modern day superstars.
But as I stated; this isn’t news to you; You’ve either read about this five hundred times, or intentionally ignored the opportunity to read this 500 times.
So let’s look at something a little bit different:
What if Lebron announced he was taking his talents to Brooklyn?
In 2009, the New Jersey Nets announced that they would be moving their team to Brooklyn in time for the 11/12 season (there are conflicting reports on if this’ll happen in time).
Since then, the team has been bought by a Russion billionaire whose caught the attention of the country after a 60 minutes piece documented his passion for womanizing, dancing, and of course, jet ski tricks , and a minority stake in the team was purchased by the world’s most popular hip hop star, Jay Z.
The Nets entered ‘The Summer of Lebron’ with a promising young big in Brook Lopez, Devin Harris and the #2 pick (which turned into Derrick Favors, who the Nets traded alongside Harris to get Deron Williams) and enough cap space to arguably secure two maximum contract superstars**.
And this new-look Nets regime decided to announce ‘their arrival’ in pure hip hop fashion: A gigantic mural -with a headline that plays off Jay Z’s most popular album -directly across from Madison Square Garden
(Ironically, this reminds me of starting a hip hop beef. And Jay Z’s most infamous ‘beef’ ended in him being completely dismantled by Nas in ‘Ether’)
To put it frankly: The Brooklyn Nets were cool. Maybe not universally loved, or catching the attention of the world, but they were cool. Coming from someone who loves the NBA, and genuinely likes hip hop culture the Nets intrigued me enough to buy this Brooklyn Nets shirt despite being a passionate-to-a-fault Boston Celtics fan. The buzz about the Nets might’ve been somewhat small, but it was unquestionably growing.
All of this leads up to the original question, what if Lebron jumped ship to Brooklyn and not Miami?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Cleveland’s still not happy and I don’t blame them. As I mentioned above, besides the nature of ‘The Decision’ the two biggest crimes that don’t get talked about enough are Lebron not allowing the Cavs the opportunity to bid for other stars, and the effect he had on their economy.
He’s also jumping ship after a great deal of the public believes he quit on his team***. And throughout his playoff run, Lebron showed enough to put him in a place where I think people were ready to hate him. In many ways ‘The Decision’ might’ve been an excuse, or launching pad for the change in feeling. Even if handled in a more appropriate fashion, The Decision might have some look at Lebron’s hypothetical move to Brooklyn as a chance for him to party with his friend Jay-Z and build his brand.
Conversely, a move to Brooklyn would mean a lot of things –
It’d mean that the greatest player on the planet would be playing for an inherently cool franchise, oozing with hip-hop culture, just a year before a scheduled a move to the home of Notorious B.I.G.
While the team would certainly still have its detractors, it also sets up for an obvious love affair with the more youth-oriented culture. A culture that could probably take a step back, think what he did to Cleveland was lousy, but what he did, and I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, was cool -The idea of the Nets opening up the 2011 season in Brooklyn, with Jay Z**** performing as Lebron comes out of the locker room is an undeniably awesome mental image.
A move to Brooklyn also means his choice in teammates also become more favorable: Deron Williams, an elite pure point guard, is a much more logical fit for James, and while Lopez isn’t as skilled as Chris Bosh yet, he does have the distinct advantage of not being, uh, Chris Bosh.
It also restores the friendly rivalry between Wade & Lebron, which is kind of the forgotten point when it comes to the dissapointment of The Decision. Before the comments and the parade, the talk was about how Michael & Magic or Magic & Larry would’ve never teamed up. In order to be the best, something Lebron still has a legitimate shot at, you’ve got to beat the best (woo!) and you can’t do that when that guy is your teammate.
But it’s Brooklyn that makes the difference – It’s what separates itself from other teams like Chicago. The Windy City is by all accounts a terrific city, with an arguably even better cast, but they lack of that ‘it’ factor that would help counter the aforementioned anti-Lebron sentiment. A move to Chicago might not bring the hatred South Beach brought, but it also doesn’t create the excitement Brooklyn would.
But unfortunately, it’s an excitement we’ll never know, cuz it was all a dream.
*Reminder: Free agency started on July 1st. Most Superstars were signed by this point.
** The numbers might’ve fallen just short of a second max contract, but there’d still be plenty. Also, to be clear; a lot of this cap space went away with the acquisition of Deron Williams, so the team wouldn’t be able to have Deron Williams, Lebron, another max player, and Brook Lopez.
***A belief that I no longer subscribe to after seeing this year’s Finals.
****Preferably ‘A Dream’