Lebron lottery hurts NBA

Dan Gedney and Dan Gedney

“The race for LeBron.”

Right now this is the National Basketball Association’s most heated race. Not the race for homecourt advantage or the race for the final spot in the playoffs. Nope, everyone seems to have their attention focused on “the race for Lebron.”

The race is always updated on ESPN’s Sportscenter and can be read about in many local newspapers. The standings for this race are a running sidebar in Cleveland’s Plain Dealer. This race draws especially high interest in Cleveland since James is from Ohio. Another reason for this is that it puts a positive spin on the futility of the Cavaliers. Instead of leading the race for the cellar, the Cavs are leading “the race for LeBron.”

A couple of problems come to mind when I think about this. First of all, with the NBA’s draft lottery there is no guarantee as to where LeBron will be playing next year. The team that just misses the playoffs could end up drafting James just as easily as the team with the worst record in the league. Does anyone remember the year the Orlando Magic’s “helium ball” floated to the top of the machine and gave them the first pick in the draft?

Second, I have never seen a race to draft a player before. There was no “race for Shaquille [O’Neal],” or “race for Vince [Carter].” With all the hype the media is putting on this “race,” it makes me wonder if teams will consider trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible to better their chances at getting the first pick, the very thing the draft lottery was designed to avoid.

Third, when was the last time one player made a team do a complete turnaround? It seems that everyone believes that whatever team drafts LeBron will go to the finals next year. With the astronomical price tag James will almost certainly come with, weaker teams might be better suited to use that money to try and fill more of their voids.

Finally, I am really not out to bad mouth LeBron. I cannot fault him for accepting those free jerseys. There are probably not many people who, put in the same situation, would not accept something that really caught their eye in a store if the store’s owner offered it to them for free. However, the truth of the matter is that he is just a high school player. Players are challenged just to make the transition from high school to college ball. James is going to have to make the jump from high school to professional ball. It has been done before, but does a team really want to risk a number one draft pick and invest and an enormous amount of money on the chance that LeBron can make that huge transition?

As far as I am concerned, James can enjoy his brand new Hummer, his free jerseys and wear an NBA headband during games all he wants to. I am just waiting to see if he lives up to his hype, or makes everyone who is singing his praises right now look like fools.