Congratulations to the Spurs for winning the NBA Finals, the best team won without a doubt. And while Tim Duncan hoists his 5th championship trophy, the aging Miami Heat and Lebron James remain at the center of attention. This was their last year as the favorite to win and it’s clear that the Heat are on the decline while other teams continue to even the playing field. Not even Carmelo Anthony can save the Heat and so the question that everyone will be asking this off-season is “will LeBron opt out of his contract?” But the question they should be asking is, “when LeBron opts out, which team will he sign with?” This is where the fun begins but first, lets dive a little deeper into LBJ’s psyche:
- LeBron the Mercenary: He’s willing to leave town to win. Whether you loved or hated him for leaving Cleveland, the truth is… he wasn't going to win there. He carried the Cavs on his back for seven strong years before ultimately realizing that his clock was ticking. He needed to win championship(s) right away and he still needs more. At 29 years old, he has one more long-term contract to sign in his prime and surely he sees the writing on the wall in Miami.
- LeBron the Billionaire: He’s on the record stating that his goal is to become a billion dollar athlete. An Investment in Liverpool FC, fresh off of a $30 million pay day after Apple’s acquisition of Beats Electronics, and high praise from investment guru Warren Buffett, I'd say he’s well on his way. Of course he’s guaranteed a max contract no matter where he goes but he’ll need to become the "King" of a bigger market than Miami for endorsement potential, jersey sales, and more.
- Lebron the Lonely: No matter where he ends up, he’ll go there with an entourage. Sure to be at the top of his list in deciding his next employer, will be the prospective team’s ability to sign one or two superstars to join him. After salary cap health, he’ll also look at things like supporting cast, coaching, the city itself, and fan power.
While “King James” undoubtedly has a team of trusted advisers discussing options, communicating with teams, and building packages for the almighty to study, his next “decision” will send him to Philly and here are 10 reasons why.
- Salary Cap Space: With over $34 million in cap space, the Sixers may be in the best fiscal shape throughout the NBA.
- Young Nucleus: Reigning rookie of the year and 6’6 point guard, Michael Carter-Williams will happily rack up the assists with Lebron’s presence while 6’11 big man (and projected #1 pick prior to his injury over a year ago) Nerlens Noel provides the rock behind the defense.
- NBA Draft: The Sixers have the 3rd and 10th overall picks in one of the strongest draft classes in years. Almost guaranteed Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker - either talent would mesh perfectly with LBJ. The 10th pick will provide another specialist/role player like sharp-shooter Doug McDermott, or wing-scorer, Gary Harris.
- Philly’s Coaching Staff: Brett Brown’s mentor was Gregg Popovich who not only beat the Heat in the finals this year, but James has a ton of respect for him.
- Franchise Leadership: Sixers CEO Scott Harris was in the meetings when the Knicks tried to lure Lebron to New York three years ago, and he surely gained insight to his heart. When forward thinking General Manager Sam Hinkie came to Philadelphia last year, it was clear that the Sixers would embed their strategy into advanced analytics. Even though 22 of the 30 NBA teams have an analytics department, Hinkie sets his strategy apart by pointing out that the data he collects is different from the current data used for player evaluation.
- Philadelphia Loves Basketball: It’s been a rough few years for Sixers fans but the city was a top 5 basketball town in terms of attendance when Iverson starred here. The Phillies are fading and the Flyers remain mediocre. Once the Sixers turn things around, they could easily rival the Eagles for king of the hill.
- America’s Next Big Tech Town? Philadelphia has seen major startup growth and millenials are flocking to the city to start businesses. The “Comcast Innovation and Technology Center” will be the 3rdlargest building in the U.S. and create thousands of jobs.
- Star Power: Before dubbed “The King”, Lebron’s favorite players (after Jordan) were Allen Iverson and Dr. J. -two perfect ambassadors to provide a tour of the city and some cheese steak tasting. Even Charles Barkley likes the idea and was quoted, "If they sign LeBron James I would bet a million dollars within five years they'll win the championship, I’m telling you they would be that good."
- Lebron is producing a scripted TV show for Starz. “Survivor’s Remorse” is based on two men from the streets who attain fame. It premieres this fall, but it isn't based in Lebron’s hometown of Akron, it’s based in Philadelphia... his next town.
- Facilities: The Sixers are breaking ground on a state of the art training facility which is quoted to be the “biggest and best in the U.S.” upon completion in 2016.
After years of mediocrity, the Sixers finally committed to build for the future. They built the right coaching staff, traded players, cut salary, lost a ton of games, acquired draft picks, and pretty much cleaned house. Unlike other sports, the NBA Championship can be won with a few great players. LeBron James is a beast (check out his advanced snapshot here) and any team he plays for becomes an automatic contender. Over the next few years, no team (not L.A. in the highly competitive Western Conference, nor the “salary-ridden” New York Knicks) provides a better opportunity to win multiple championships than the Philadelphia 76ers.
*Photo of Lebron from Heat vs. Sixers March 13th 2013, Photo of Philadelphia fromComcast Network press release*