Why LeBron to the Miami Heat Would Be an Absolute Disaster for the NBA
I know, I sound like a broken record. And I sound like a desperate Knicks fan still bitter about not winning a championship during the Ewing-Starks-Oakley era. But there’s only 11 more hours until “The Decision” and I’ve got to weigh in (at least) one more time.
The news that broke last night — that “all indications point to” LeBron James going to the Heat — is absolutely the NBA’s worst nightmare. Somewhere on a tarmac in Ohio, or in an office building in midtown Manhattan, or at the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, David Stern is pacing back and forth, eager to pin down LeBron, lock him in a closet, and tell him that he can’t, under any circ*mstances, join the Miami Heat. Here’s why:
In the ideal scenario for this season or any season for that matter, the NBA wants three things:
- A large number of superstar or near-superstar players who are worth the price of admission or a Tuesday night viewing alone.
- Those superstar players spread out over the largest number of teams possible, and yet also paired with at least one other superstar or near-superstar, so that they have a legitimate chance to contend for a title.
- And finally, those superstar-packed, contending teams to play in major U.S. markets.
In the NBA, barring major injuries, any scenario would fulfill point one. The league is not short on superstars and near-superstars.
But LeBron to Miami absolutely fails points two and three. Not only do the Heat already now have two superstars in Wade and Bosh (or if you insist, a superstar and a very-very-near superstar), but they play in the 17th largest TV market in the country (Cleveland-Akron is #18 by comparison). So by heading to Miami, LeBron is screwing over the #1 market in the country (NYC, 7.5 million households), which desperately needs a superstar, and the #3 market (Chicago, 3.5 million), which has a ton of near-superstars but not one superstar. And let’s not even talk about Cleveland, which isn’t a major market (1.5 million), but is now more or less done for the next decade.
You can of course make the argument that LeBron simply went where he could finally top Kobe, where he knew he’d be guaranteed multiple championships, where he could play with his friends Wade and Bosh, and where he wouldn’t have to pay a single cent of income tax. True, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen did the same thing with the Celtics and got themselves their rings. But this year was different. This year the max contracts needed to be spread out evenly and in a LeBron-to-Miami scenario, that doesn’t happen at all. Once again, somewhere, right now, David Stern is apoplectic. He needed LeBron to go to the Knicks or Chicago. The last thing he or the NBA needs is for LeBron to go to Miami.
One last set of statistics to throw out there for you: In the 2009-2010 regular season, the Cavaliers played on national television on TNT, ESPN, or ABC a total of 25 times. Understandable considering everyone wants to see LeBron. Ditto for the Kobes and the Celtics, who also had 25 appearances. The Heat, with only Wade, got 15. And the Knicks? Five. That’s it — five times, none of which were on TNT. Maybe there’s some deal with the MSG Network that prevents them from sharing more games with the national audience, but I doubt it. Nobody wanted to watch the Knicks, so they didn’t get a primetime national spotlight. And Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t helping.
And then there’s the playoffs, and, really, the NBA Finals. This year’s Lakers-Celtics NBA Championship pulled an average 10.9 rating, with the help of the #2 and #7 markets. The Heat’s 2006 championship over the Mavericks (#5 market) pulled an 8.5. San Antonio’s (#37 market) sweep of LeBron and the Cavs the next year pulled a 6.2. Ultimately, it more about the markets than the players.
You could argue that everyone is going to tune in to all those Heat games (they’ll for sure get what seems like the max of 25 in 2010-2011) just to watch these three dominate the league. But weren’t most diehard NBA fans already going to watch Wade and Bosh? The NBA needed LeBron on the Knicks, or at the very least, the Bulls, so that every game could feel like an early-’90s Knicks-Bulls game, and you could grab a big chunk of those huge TV markets. If the “indications” are true, that’s not happening.
David Stern, I’ve got some rope, and I know my way around the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich (balled on that hardcourt quite a few games myself). Let’s make King James come to his senses. Meet you on the 11:10 train from Grand Central?