Since the LeBron James rumor mill first started kicking into high gear last week there have been way too many rumors to keep a handle on. Seemingly every reporter or NBA "expert" from the Bronx to the Hollywood Hills has had one or more "sources" tell them definitively where LeBron James is going to play next year.
First it's New York, then Cleveland, or Chicago, or maybe MIami with the edge in the free agent sweepstakes that hasn't even started yet. At some point, you begin to wonder if anyone commenting on this circus is credible anymore.
So, with all that in mind, it's refreshing to see a slightly different take on things. ESPN writer Chad Millman has an interesting article today on his blog that attempts to devise an algorithm to predict King James' final decision. Millman analogizes the LeBron speculation to the practice of handicapping in sports betting. He consulted professional gamblers, NBA analysts, and even a statistician from Cal-Berkeley in order to build his algorithm.
In a nutshell, Millman created categories and subcategories of items that might factor into James' decision on where to play, and then assigned point values to those categories. His factors included the ability to win a championship next year, the ability to win multiple championships in the next several years, cost of living, city-wide reputation, and even marketing endorsement potential to build his formula. After a bit of statistical magic, he ended up with a ranking of the five teams who are in the LBJ hunt. Who won?
Obviously, I know my system has some flaws. Most important of which are the assumptions I am making. But this, my friends, is part of handicapping. Wise guys are constantly trying to glean insight into a coach's plans or a player's mindset from what they read. And that's what I did with LeBron. My assumption is that the two things that matter most to him are establishing a long-term legacy of success and becoming a billionaire. Both of these goals can be accomplished by winning as many titles as possible in the next decade.
According to my math, the winner of the LeBron sweepstakes should be ... the Bulls. Combining their point totals from the Legacy category and Money category, they beat out the Heat by 18 points. Next up were the Knicks, then the Nets, Cavs and Clips.
No one can say for sure where LeBron will end up. But if he cares about winning and money, it's hard to bet against Chicago. (But I wouldn't ignore Miami, either.)
Hop on over to ESPN (Insider) to read the full article, which breaks down Millman's formula and explains his logic in the values he assigned to his categories. It's quite the intriguing read.