Monday, July 7, 2014

What Lebron James Should Do

Michael Jordan is worth an estimated one billion dollars.  His total income from NBA salary as a player is a faction of this number.  He makes an estimated $80 million per year many years after he last played in an NBA game.  The maximum an NBA player can make per year is about $30 million.

Lebron James should try to "go Jordan".  He should forgo income now with the goal of a much greater total lifetime of earnings.  The way he does this is to sign a series of one year contracts with whichever team gives him the best chance to win a title in a given year.  If he does this for the next 6 years and wins 5 championships, he will end his career with 7 titles.  If he manages his image well and does things in the right way, this level of success should be enough to set him up for a lifetime of basketball income far greater than he could make by taking large contracts now (and winning at most a few more NBA titles).

Forgoing large salaries now allows James to sign with any team.  Also, James taking less money allows whatever team he does sign with the ability to sign more and better players in an effort to win a championship.

Lebron James is in danger of becoming the Buffalo Bills of the NBA.  He's one freak play and Ray Allen long ball away from being 1 for 5 in the NBA finals.  The Buffalo Bills didn't "go Jordan".  You have to be a big winner to do that.  If James doesn't choose well, he might end up with a 2 for 7 or worse record in NBA finals.

So, if James is convinced "going Jordan" is what he should do, which team should he sign with?  I think the answer is obvious, the San Antonio Spurs.  Here is why:

  1. The Spurs give James the best chance to win the title next year.  They won it last year without him.  All of their key players are coming back next year.
  2. With James, the Spurs might challenge the 72-10 mark of the 95-96 Bulls.  Succeed in this and James will take Jordan down just a notch and raise his own brand.  The chase for the single season record would be a huge, ongoing story.
  3. The Spurs have a history of managing players' minutes.  With James, the Spurs would probably be the deepest team ever.  This would allow James (and everybody on the team) to play less minutes.  This would help come playoff time.  Also, it could help extend James's career.
  4. By joining the Spurs, James does not have to face the Spurs in the finals or earlier in the playoffs.  That means a lot considering the Spurs have beaten James twice in the NBA finals.  And, the Spurs have a player (Kawhi Leonard) and a defensive scheme that slows down James more than maybe any other team.
  5. Texas has no state income tax.  This allows James to keep more of his money.  There are only five NBA teams in states without state income taxes, the Heat, Magic, Mavs, Rockets, and Spurs.  The Spurs are clearly the best team out of those five for James to go to if his goal is to win a title next year.
A great player who stays in one place his whole career is one kind of great NBA story.  Another great NBA story is a player who wants to win NBA championships and will do whatever it takes to win.  This is the story Lebron James should tell and that is what he should do.  If he does this and does this right, he will be able to "go Jordan", make a ridiculous amount of money, and secure his place in NBA history.

For all the reasons outlined above, just before NBA camps open this year, without fanfare or press conferences, we should see this on the NBA wire "The San Antonio Spurs have signed Lebron James to a one year contract for the veteran's minimum salary."  If anything else happens, Lebron James has made a poor choice.  Go Jordan, Lebron.  It's in your best interest.