Published November 20, 2014
So now the LeBron James-John Calipari combo-plate rumor has gone mainstream. It's spoken of openly in the media, now. It's so ubiquitous it's already been denied. And not only denied, but denied, by Calipari, in the most vehement way you can deny something these days. On Twitter.
So you know he's serious.
Still, any time a college football or basketball coach insists he isn't leaving, my alarm bells go off like it's DEFCON 3. Plus, this story involves a mysterious behind-the-scenes basketball power broker known as "Worldwide Wes."
Yeah, that's right. "Worldwide" Wes. I know. Even ZZ Top only claimed to be bad, and nationwide. But this guy is Worldwide!
There's no way we're not diving into this. As Seinfeld's Kramer once said, "A story like that has got to be true!"
So let's break this thing down, Rumsfeld style:
Has there likely been any actual contact on this coming from either James or Calipari to potential suitors regarding there being a package deal? No.
Does everyone have plausible deniability here? Oh, good heavens, yes.
Do I think this is just pure, random speculation, made up out of thin air? Uh, no.
And upon further examination of the known knowns, the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns ... Calipari?
OK, Cal seems like a charismatic players' coach. He knows the game, he wins and he can produce NBA talent. Or at least recruit NBA talent. Plus, in the pros, one wouldn't have to worry about NCAA violations.
Which begs the question, for teams considering this, can NBA playoff appearances be vacated?
(When UK fans made peace with the one-and-done thing in exchange for winning, they thought it was just the players. Oh, Kentucky fans. Always the wide-eyed innocents.)
Again, Calipari is a great college coach, and he's reinvented himself with the dribble-drive motion offense. He's not the same guy he was back in the '90s with the Nets, when he entered the league with an excess of swagger, and the unknown unknowns bit him in the rear.
Let's be honest. Calipari's Nets did make the playoffs once. But the thing most of us remember from his last stay in the pros was him calling a report a "----ing Mexican idiot."
So yes, this time he would be older, wiser and have some idea what he would be getting into. But still.
College coaches don't have great track records in the pros. And whether the comparison is fair or not to either of them, this smacks a little of a Tim Floyd situation. Only this time it would be a player making the pick.
And that's another thing. Maybe we're all making a little too much of LeBron's, ahem, third bad game in seven years. But at this particular moment in basketball history, I don't feel comfortable ceding complete and utter leadership of the direction of my franchise to the guy from Game 5.
Granted, that may be what you need to do in order to get him. But we've already seen the King thing, and look how far that got him.
At this point in his career he needs a situation not to cater to him, but rather, to push him, to extract greatness from him. That includes a coach who will do the same.
I think LeBron knows that, and that he may already know where he wants to go (or stay, as the case may be). But I won't be the first to point out that it's cool to be recruited. And James may be simply pining for the Back to School experience he never had.
If you're LeBron James, and this is your life at 25, what thrills are there left? Well, he could win a ring. And he could be wooed, like a blue chipper trying to make his college choice.
So there we have it. Worldwide Wes is a man who could make something like this happen. LeBron loves being wooed. Few can play this game like a college coach.
Twittered Calipari: "Still the speculation runs wild and I can't stop that ..."
That's normally coachspeak for "contract extension."
So, fine. It is intriguing, I'll give them that. But the Game 5 flop put a new tone on the Summer of 2010. It gave James an escape clause, but it also put the shoe on the other foot (his). It's time for a situation that challenges him, not kisses his butt. And that's on him.
Proceed carefully, gentlemen. We are all witnesses.