Blacktop to Auction Block

In a little less than an hour the most talked about Free Agent class in the history of the NBA officially become eligible to visit teams and negotiate contracts. This is the moment that the Knicks, media, fans, LeBron James and the NBA itself has anticipated for the last two and a half years. "The LeBron James Sweepstakes" has been the talk of the season, with everyone from NBA owners to the President of the United States speculating what would happen once this day came. Well, it's here and one thing is for certain, we know a little more, but still don't know a damn things. LeBron is meeting with the Nets and Knicks first, then he'll meet with other teams vying for his services, the Bulls, Heat, Cavaliers, Clippers, Mavericks and anyone else who wants to make a pitch before he decides where to take his all-world skills.

While LeBron is the centerpiece, he is certainly not the only game in town this year, as fellow superstar Dwayne Wade is also a free agent, and so is Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Rudy Gay. The next few hours into days promise to be as exciting for any basketball fan as any in the last 15 years. There's no use to talking about the money, it's far more than any of us will ever see with maximum contracts reaching $127 million for re-signing with your current team and just under $97 million if you choose to sign a maximum deal with another team.

Just last week, 60 young men heard their name called in association with a NBA team for the first time as they were drafted from the amateur ranks to join the greatest players on Earth. Players like John Wall, Evan Turner, and Demarcus Cousins aspire to be like the big names that will dominate SportsCenter and newspapers for the next week or so, on the court, in celebrity and in salary. In 1998, the NBA placed a scale or a salary cap on the amount of money that rookies can earn on their first contracts, in effect making them earn the big bucks that unproven players had been given until that point. Now, these players have to play three to five seasons before the megabucks are earned, the money that really changes your life and the lives of those around you.

In his book Forty Million Dollar Slaves, William Rhoden explores the culture of excess and exploitation that these athletes, largely Black males find themselves in as their schoolyard obsession has become the business of their lives. There's one major difference about this crop of free agents as opposed to those of yesteryear and many of the athletes that Rhoden wrote about, these guys are in control. Players like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing were all under the rule of super agent David Falk, who pretty much controlled how his clients were portrayed in the press, which teams they negotiated with and held his players at ransom for salaries that have changed the rules that govern the money of the sport.

Lebron, fired his agent at age 20 and formed a sports marketing firm with three childhood friends named LRMR, that not only represents him, but O.J. Mayo and NFL player Ted Ginn Jr. There are no super agents controlling the information that leaks out, manipulating back door deals, these guys are handling business for themselves these days and I'm proud of them. Another free agent this year really gets a nod for shedding the hold agents had over the NBA stars and that's Ray Allen. Once the NBA instituted a scale for maximum salaries, Allen hipped himself to the game and realized that he didn't need an agent to negotiate that deal for him, just a lawyer to review it and broke free, breaking the chains of the power brokers league wide.

So, while the spectacle that begins in 13 minutes may be similar to a high-end auction house, we're actually watching future Fortune 500/1000 companies merge with other Fortune 500 companies in some of the shrewdest business moves this side of Halliburton. The speculation is has reached a fevered pitch and will overflow as the players and team representatives jet set around the country in the eight days preceding the actual July 8th signing day, I'm just gonna watch as the rich get richer, players and owners and a certain team that's spent the last two years dumping salary may strike out become the biggest loser this side of Cleveland.
7 minutes and counting…

Leave a respond