In My Opinion

Pursuit of LeBron James could be Charlotte Hornets’, and city’s, Super Bowl

tsorensen@charlotteobserver.comJune 24, 2014 

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LeBron James will opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat on Tuesday. The idea of him landing with the Charlotte Hornets is a longshot, but not as long as Charlotte getting Major League Baseball, the Super Bowl or the Olympics.

ANDY LYONS — Getty Images

Charlotte is not going to attract a Major League Baseball team or host the Olympics or the Super Bowl. Those are fantasies, not possibilities.

But Charlotte could sign LeBron James.

Of course the Hornets are underdogs. I believe they’re accustomed to the role.

LeBron will opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat and on Tuesday become an unrestricted free agent. The move could be nothing more than a ploy to encourage the Heat to pack more talent around him. It will be a shock if LeBron leaves Miami. MyTopSportsbooks.com says the odds are 8-1 that LeBron stays.

Yet several teams will recruit him the way Kentucky’s John Calipari recruits high-school all-stars.

Why can’t Charlotte be one of them?

Four years ago LeBron said he was going to take his talents to South Beach.

This summer he could say he’s taking his talents to the New South, Charlotte’s South End neighborhood or, if he wants to live across the border, South Carolina.

If LeBron wants to retain his number, he won’t have to pay a teammate to give up No. 6. Only three players in Hornets’ history have worn 6 – Michael Holton, Nazr Mohammad and Tyson Chandler – and at the moment it is unclaimed.

After Steve Clifford talks to the media at Time Warner Cable Arena Monday about a rookie audition, I ask if LeBron would be a good fit for his team.

“Let’s put it this way,” Clifford, the head coach, says. “We could find minutes for him.”

If somebody wants to accuse Clifford of tampering, the coach was: (A) smiling; (B) smiling impossibly large in a manner that suggests sarcasm; and (C) nobody has ever tampered sarcastically.

Of course LeBron would be a great fit. In Charlotte he’d play with a true point guard and a true center, and he’d play for an owner who uniquely understands the challenges the best player in a sport must face. The owner, newly declared a billionaire, says he wants to sign a star free-agent.

LeBron would be surrounded by relatively young talent that, after Thursday’s draft, will become younger. Nobody has the pedigree of Miami’s Dwayne Wade or Chris Bosh. But their bodies are healthier.

I doubt the Hornets have the money to sign LeBron and bring back power forward Josh McRoberts. But if they did, they would have two of the top-passing forwards in the sport. That ball would move.

To make the signing work, LeBron would forgive McRoberts for the inadvertent hack to the neck in game two of the 2013-14 playoffs.

LeBron would forgive Michael for the occasional digs.

Michael would forgive LeBron for daring to challenge his status as the greatest player of all time, and for glaring at him during a dunk in Game 3 of the playoffs.

And Cam Newton would have to forgive LeBron for supplanting him as Charlotte’s top celebrity athlete – if Newton believes LeBron is a bigger celebrity.

LeBron’s Heat made the NBA Finals four straight seasons and won the championship twice.

Yet LeBron will forever be criticized for joining Wade and Bosh, two established stars, instead of going off on his own.

In Charlotte, there would be no such criticism.

Instead of joining a juggernaut, LeBron could start one.

Sorensen: 704-358-5129; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen

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