Believe me, I'm under no false illusions. Luring LeBron James away from the NBA and signing him up for my Monday night game at the Santa Monica YWCA, is going to be tough. Artie "Clank" Gotbaum retired due to chronic White Man's Disease, so yes, we have room under the cap, but still, it won't be easy landing the All-Star forward.
As I fly to Ohio to meet with Mr. James and his inner circle, I'm confident of being as prepared as humanly possible. Representatives of several NBA teams probably think they're prepared as well, but I can't worry about them. Hopefully Mr. James will be astute enough to see the advantages of playing once a week with a fun group of guys, one of whom, Rick "Sky" Minetti, could once leap up and nearly touch the rim.
The game plan is to open my spiel by telling Mr. James that if he joins my game he'd never again have to play any away games. Surely, that will be an eye-opener. Then, to close the deal, I'll throw out my piece de resistance: play with us, Mr. James, and you never have to talk to another sportswriter ever again. If that alone doesn't blow Mr. James away, then maybe he's just a bad fit with our group and I'll shut it down. But I don't see that happening.
Two of the fellows in my Monday game - Eddie "Drano" Carlisle, who, in his own quiet way, is a really crappy player, and Chuck "Clog" Noguchi, an architect with no sense of spacing on the court - feel that the mere fact that our competitors for Mr. James' services are willing to pay him, puts us at a disadvantage.
I disagree. With a man of Mr. James' gifts, I'm confident his choice will ultimately come down to style of play. If I can get him to focus on the benefits of our "run and gun" system in which there are no coaches, no referees, no defense, no three-second violations, no shot clock, no fans, no groupies, no drug testing, no practices, games to 14 and a college-length three-point line, everything could fall into place real fast. After all, that very same package lured me into the game nine years ago. That, and the court-side defibrillator.
(Oh wait. We also allow the crab dribble. I swear, I've left that out every time I've rehearsed my pitch.)
As is the case in any negotiation, withholding certain carrots will play a part in the successful courting of Mr. James. For instance, I'll demur on telling him that we're willing to waive his responsibility to damp-mop the gym floor once a month. The same goes for our other ace in the hole: if he joins our game, Mr. James won't have to do any charity work. The NBA may care but many of our guys are show business. We couldn't care less.
Most of the guys in my Monday night game rate our chances of signing Mr. James as decent: somewhat worse than the odds of The Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, about even with the Miami Heat, and significantly better than the New York Knicks or Los Angeles Clippers. The only naysayer is Teddy "Vestigial Left Hand" McSorley, who thinks we have no chance of getting Mr. James but Teddy is a total jerk who no one passes to anyway.
Hey: maybe I'll tell Mr. James that if he signs with us, we'll dump Teddy from the game. Yeah. Let me write that down. That's good. That's really good.