- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Life is better with options and it couldn’t be much better for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. They wrested control and leverage from management in an industry where labor typically has little.

Pro athletes in major team sports have no say in choosing their first employer, as 60 young men will experience firsthand Thursday night in the NBA draft. They often play no role in deciding if and where they’re traded. They’re expected to treat loyalty as a two-way street, though teams can erect “Do Not Enter” signs at any point, especially in the twilight of a career.

Don’t get me wrong; I’d sign up for that deal in a heartbeat. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Americans with bachelor’s degrees can expect $2.1 million in earnings during their working life.

So, yes, being a pro athlete for even a few years would be awesome.

Being in James‘ or Anthony’s position would be even sweeter.

By exercising the early-out options in their contracts with Miami and New York, respectively, James and Anthony essentially become assistant general managers  for any interested teams. They will ask questions and their opinions will carry weight with teams that are anxious to sign them.

Which other free agents are you pursuing? Which veterans are you retaining? Which players are you dangling as trade bait?

Special bonus question for the Lakers: Who’s going to be the coach?

Some observers grumble about players having that much influence. But it’s called “star power” for a reason. Keeping them happy — whether it’s James and Anthony, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout or Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III — can go a long way toward keeping them in your uniform.

While I love the fact that James and Anthony took charge of their own destiny, another aspect of their decision is equally appealing.

The NBA offseason became a lot more interesting, filled with drama, suspense and intrigue that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Imagine how dull it would be if James and Anthony turned down their shot at free agency.

Pat Riley would have limited ability to significantly improve Miami’s roster. The mess that Phil Jackson inherited in New York couldn’t get worse either way, but at least now we have the thrill of the unknown.

Meanwhile, the Bulls, Rockets, Clippers, Lakers and Cavaliers can fantasize about landing James or Anthony, giving everyone else plenty to talk about.

(Personally, I hope Cleveland gets psyched up to believe that James‘ return is imminent, only to see the dream dashed at the last instant. Based on fans’ vile reaction and the owner’s infantile rant when James left in 2010, the Cavs aren’t worthy of consideration. James can forgive them, sure, but he shouldn’t forget. Besides, firing Mike Brown one season into his second stint as coach indicates the team is infected with a special strain of dysfunction.)

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