It’s clear why advisor William Wesley has been so relentless courting suitors with conditions and circumstances with which they can secure LeBron James(notes): For basketball’s biggest dealmaker, there’s little personal benefit to James re-signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers. To team executives in the chase and those familiar with the dynamics of James’ inner circle, World Wide Wes’ agenda is clear: Get LeBron out of Cleveland and push himself into a prominent place of power.
To be considered the architect of the sport’s grandest transaction, World Wide Wes needs James out of the clutches of the Cavaliers.
“If LeBron leaves, Wes is going to get carte blanche wherever he signs,” one source told Yahoo! Sports. “He’s going to have the run of the place, and he doesn’t have that in Cleveland. He has access there, but Maverick Carter is the guy with the keys there. …[Carter’s] much more influential, and would always be in Cleveland.”
This is the push and pull on the inside of Team LeBron, sources say – agendas colliding in self-interest as the start of free agency creeps closer on Thursday. In the end, James is too strong to let someone else make a decision for him, but there remains strong influences deeply immersed in this process with him.
Beyond James’ own sentimentality and belief of staying the course with Cleveland, the best chance the Cavaliers have to re-sign James likely belongs to Carter, his business manager, and the high school buddies on the payroll. Should James leave for the bright lights and big cities, his childhood associates become less relevant, less impressive. “No one cares about those guys walking around in Chicago or Miami or New York,” one league executive said.
James’ friends have had the run of Cleveland for seven years, unchecked power within the corridors of the Cavaliers organization. Around Cleveland and nearby Akron, where they were brought up with James, they don’t need to have the two-time MVP surrounding them to be considered VIPs. Maybe that doesn’t end with James elsewhere, but it dramatically changes.
Carter has counted upon James’ money to bankroll a fledgling marketing company, LRMR, and James’ staying with Cleveland would be worth $30 million more over the life of a six-year contract than if he signed with another team.
LRMR has little revenue coming in, and going out they have offices, staff, attorneys, five-star hotel bills and the use of private jets. For James’ associates, the cost of living promises to be far steeper beyond the life they’ve made for themselves in Northeast Ohio.
There isn’t strife within Team LeBron, but tension? Yes, there’s tension, sources say. After all, Carter has set himself up as the conduit to James, his marketing guru, the man all things must go through before they reach James’ ears. He controls his own people in the media, plants the stories he wants reported. Team LeBron had the grand idea for a city-to-city free-agent tour that had to be cancelled because of the backlash this frenzy had started to incur.
World Wide Wes doesn’t spend the time that Maverick does with James, but he has far greater influence with front offices and teams. Carter tried to work an arrangement with David Geffen to buy controlling interest of the Los Angeles Clippers, but owner Donald Sterling has shown no interest in selling. This would’ve been Carter’s coup, his way to move James into Hollywood and an epic tangle with Kobe Bryant(notes) and the Los Angeles Lakers. It would’ve been his score, his deal, and Wes would’ve been on the outside.
Only, it never happened and the process is back where it started: With Wesley selling New York and New Jersey on making deals for Chris Paul(notes), and advising Chicago and Miami to clear cap space to make room for James and other star free agents. Cleveland isn’t out of this, but the world changes around LeBron James if he declares he’s leaving home. One of those teams will owe World Wide Wes, and payback will come with raises for the coaches he represents, with contracts for the players he’ll want to eventually bring there.
The power of World Wide Wes – real, mythical or blurred in between – is on trial now. Ultimate deal for Wesley or ultimate bust. Which is why he’s pushing for James to leave Cleveland, to leave the superstar’s comfort zone. Wes’ ability to work the league for years could come down to the NBA’s most historic free agent staying or going, stepping out and moving away or clinging close to the people and place he has always known.
Yes, this is LeBron James’ choice, and it needs to be because the agendas surrounding serve every interest but his own.