In the hunt for the signature of LeBron James, South Florida has suddenly (briefly?) vaulted into the lead. Apparently, there was a "summit" last weekend in Miami, hosted by Dwyane Wade, with Chris Bosh and LeBron James himself in attendance. ESPN is reporting that Wade made a recruiting pitch that was received enthusiastically by Bosh and slightly less so by the galaxy's premier free agent.
Apparently, the Heat needs only to find some sucker willing to take Michael Beasley and then the team will be able to sign Wade, Bosh, and James, which would be an NBA champion even if you played point guard and your mailman played center.
Seriously, though. Let's put our heads together and biases behind us and try to solve the hottest riddle ever to rule a sport's offseason.
First, full disclosure: Being a Chicago native, I have an allegiance to the Bulls. Just as most of you readers may have a hometown reason for rooting for the Heat. We'll do our best to be objective, right?
I hope we can agree that LeBron's top priority is to win an NBA championship. Those seven seasons of defeat in Cleveland have left him feeling hungry for the big prize and desperate to establish his legacy as one of the game's greatest ever, along with his idol, Michael Jordan.
Then we have a slew of secondary factors, and we can't begin to rank these. LeBron feels a strong loyalty to his native northeast Ohio, which would seem to favor his Cavaliers. He's a shrewd businessman and would like his next city to give him international marketing appeal, which would seem to favor New York's Knicks. He also likes the owners of the New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks -- that Russian playboy and Mark Cuban, respectively.
But again, I'm operating on the assumption that winning is the only thing for King James. A quick glance at the rosters of LeBron finalists reduces the field to two: My Bulls and your Heat.
Either destination promises a slew of NBA titles. So in my estimation, LeBron will cancel that factor out and explore all the secondary factors for a tiebreaker. The Bulls and Heat will be glad to help him with that.
The Heat's sales pitch goes like this: You're friends with Wade. He has already won an NBA title, so he knows how to get you there. South Beach is more big-pimpin'-style fun than Chicago. The weather's better than Chicago's. And with Pat Riley around, the front office is much more pleasant than the one in Chicago, ruled by that miser Jerry Reinsdorf.
Now the Bulls' sales pitch: The existing core of players is stronger than in Miami, and since star point guard Derrick Rose is much younger than Wade, you can have a longer period of dominating the league in Chicago. And Wade is so proven, so spectacular, that his personality and play might rule the team, whereas you'd be the undisputed alpha dog in Chicago, credited with single-handedly returning a once-mighty franchise to a place it hasn't been since Jordan's retirement. The city's much closer (a five-hour drive; a 45-minute flight) to your native Akron.
OK, so I short-armed the Heat sales pitch a bit and really put my heart into pitching the Bulls.
It's exciting for fans of either team. By the same token, try to put yourself in the shoes of one of the other teams: How much would you hate the Bulls (or Heat) if they assemble a Dream Team like this? I mean, aren't we getting a little greedy?