As Boston defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs, the future of LeBron James became even more uncertain.
One thing, however, is clear- teams are willing to go to great lengths to charm the two-time MVP basketball sensation.
Eight to 10 squads have the finances to make a play for the hottest free agent on the market.
Sports analysts and fans alike know it will take more than riches to win over the professed King of the NBA.
Winning a title is his top priority and a sound, supporting roster could hold the ticket to pull off this dream acquisition.
The Bulls, Cavs, Knicks, Nets and Clippers are all carefully orchestrating superstar deals in a brawl to outdo one another.
Here are how LeBron's options stack up:
The Bulls -
With a young core featuring all-star point guard Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls proved Cavalier worthy competition all through their recent five-game series. The Bulls end of the season lay-off of head coach Vinny Del Negro leaves the team leaderless.
Yet, this void may very well be part of a well-crafted plan to lure in LeBron.
LeBron's ruling may shape Chicago’s decision as reports hint at a budding contract with Kentucky Coach John Calipari, given his binds to James agent, Leon Rose and close ties to power broker and James companion, William Wesley. James seems undaunted at the thought of playing on the court once home to six-time title champion Michael Jordan.
LeBron claims his recent number switch from 23 to six was out of respect for Jordan's legacy but could it actually be to avoid an awkward situation at Chicago once the deal is done.
A James initiated phone call to Derrick Rose was confirmed by an ESPN league source concerning LeBron’s interest in welcoming an opportunity to play with Rose.
With an estimated $20 million dollar cap, Chicago holds the funds to sign the biggest name in the game.
The Cavaliers -
The Cleveland Cavaliers seem to have the best shot and necessary funds to re-sign James since drafting the young talent in 2003.
The Cavs' persistent efforts have not gone unnoticed when it comes to keeping LeBron happy. Still, despite recent supporting player purchases including Shaquille O'Neal, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Leon Poew and Anderson Varejao, the powerful line-up fell short of a Conference final.
The Cavalier's most recent LeBron plea includes terminating their contract with head coach Mike Brown for $4.5m. The change may help seal a LeBron return; but, if unconvincing, the decision will leave the Cavs absent of both a star player and head coach.
The Knicks -
Speculation suggests Knicks President Donnie Walsh is planning to move Eddy Curry and Jared Jeffries to open enough cap space to sign LeBron alongside fellow free agents Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade. Fostering a second star will be exceedingly difficult due to budget restraints but essential for building a championship team.
LeBron has declared his goal is to seal multiple championships and a talented roster better paves the way to the title he has fallen short of for seven straight seasons.
If Walsh can persuade James that the Knicks will put the star in position to win a title, then New York may be a frontrunner.
The Nets and the Clippers-
Although the odds are not in their favour, the New Jersey Nets have the money to sign two or three big name players with a new Russian owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, ranked the third richest man in the world.
Despite the alluring and posh lifestyle Las Angeles has to offer, the LA Clippers lack an inspiring legacy and continue to fall in the shadows of the LA Lakers.
While LeBron could build a dynasty for the Clippers, it will be difficult for him to come up on top alone without top talent at his side.
It will take more than money and glamour appeals to score this big-name and bottom line- the Nets and Clippers are unlikely to offer LeBron a championship ring.
The issue of who will sign LeBron is so big it goes up to the President. Backing his hometown Bulls, ardent NBA fan, Obama, discussed the potential for James to shift west in an interview with TNT.
"You know, like I said, I don’t want to meddle. I will say this: (Derrick) Rose, Joakim Noah - it's a pretty good core. You know, you could see LeBron fitting in pretty well there."
It will now be a waiting game until July 1, the first day players can sign new contracts. LeBron seems smitten and determined to milk the added attention.
"No team LeBron James is on will ever be under the radar," said LeBron himself. "July 1, 2010 is going to be a very, very big day."
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