In the 48 hour aftermath of the Cavs’ Game 6 loss to the Boston Celtics, two prominent rumors started to circulate through the paper-thin walls of the Interwebs.
The first rumor was not necessarily new, it just started to gain new steam: basically that LeBron and current Kentucky coach John Calipari were going to be a package deal wherever LeBron ends up playing next season. The close association of both to William “Worldwise Wes” Wesley had turned this whisper into a low murmur some time ago.
The second rumor was new, and while it is significantly more sensational, scintillating, and salacious, it is much, much easier to simply dismiss as baseless Internet chatter. That rumor, if you have not heard it, is that LeBron found out before Game 5 that teammate Delonte West was sleeping with Gloria James, LeBron’s mother.
Since I remain fascinated by this story despite multiple proclamations that I’m sick of it, I decided to dig a bit more into both this morning. What I found didn’t really surprise me.
Here is an excerpt from The Big Lead, where I saw the Delonte West-Gloria James story initally:
Rumor has it that LeBron found out before Game 4 which is where the entire series changed. Delonte West stopped playing as much and LeBron’s numbers fell of a cliff.
They go on to cite Delonte West’s diminishing minutes and LeBron’s diminishing performance as indicators that the rumor could have some validity. Obviously correlation does not necessarily equal causation (which I’m sure TBL would agree with), so nothing close to definitive can be drawn from a sourceless email and some thinly corroborating statistics. And, to be fair, they pass it along as nothing more than rumor and give it no legitimacy.
The Delonte West-Gloria James rumor was also posted on TerezOwens.com, which, on a somewhat unrelated note, definitely qualifies as the douchiest name for a sports rumor site I can imagine.
Why don’t I believe this rumor? Because I asked around and no one I trust gives it even a shred of credibility. I couldn’t tell you one way or the other with certainty, so I’ll go with the people I trust.
Daulerio summed up my feelings on it well with his post on the Delonte West is banging LeBron’s mom rumor at Deadspin:
Of course, this should all sound very familiar. This time, however, it’s the mother of the star player — a particularly dirty twist on the classic locker-room urban legend. Unfortunately, this one’s picked up steam and become an “exclusive” for one site, even though it probably has as much basis in reality as the one about Joe Horn and Willie Roaf’s wife, or Jeff McInnis and Phil Ford’s wife, or Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds’s girlfriend (or was that Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher’s girlfriend?).
But yes — this rumor is spreading all over the place, and just remember that it is most likely coming from a bunch of 4chanish wags preying on the vulnerability all those sad Cavs fans searching for answers right now.
So Cavs fans, until something credible is said about this rumor, I think it can be placed right beside your NBA Finals dreams: in the garbage.
The whispers-turned-murmurs regarding LeBron and my sworn enemy John Sleazapari (or is it Calisleazy?) are far more difficult to dismiss. In fact, I think they shouldn’t be dismissed, because I am starting to operate under the assumption that this will be a major factor come July when LeBron officially becomes a free agent.
First, here is very pertinent link to a July 2007 GQ article that connects a few of the Worldwise Wes dots if you are unfamiliar with famous and mysterious roundball power broker.
“Is This the Most Powerful Man in Sports?” — (GQ, July 2007)
“People who really know Wes,” says superagent David Falk, Wes’s longtime friend, “know that he’s one of the two or three most powerful people in the sport.”
Earlier in the week, when the Toronto Raptors were in town, I spotted LeBron’s agent, Leon Rose, a close friend of Wes’s from back in the Pro Shoes days. (Rose also happens to be Wes’s attorney.) Ten years ago, Rose’s client list consisted of the itinerant scrub Rick Brunson and a handful of foreign players. Then, in 2002, seemingly out of nowhere, Rose somehow bagged Dajuan Wagner and Allen Iverson. Soon after, he was hired by Richard Hamilton. And then, in 2005, he landed the most desired client in the world, LeBron James.
Rose is coy about his relationship with Wes, but according to many sources, it’s no coincidence that nearly all of Rose’s clients are Wes’s “nephews.”
As I stand outside the locker room last December, a Cavs media liaison grants me five minutes with LeBron for a postpractice chat. “Can you describe your relationship with Wes?” I ask. “Friend? Adviser? Both? What kind of advice does he provide? What services?”
He looks down at me and says softly, “He’s a great guy. I met him a few years back. He’s been a great role model to me. I can only say good things about him.”
“As a role model,” I ask, “what’s he in your ear about?”
He adjusts the giant silver earphones fixed above his temples and says, “That’s kind of personal information, honestly. What’s said, what goes on with, you know, our family, stays with our family. But as far as him being a good person—he’s always been good to me. He’s never asked me for anything. He’s always been trustworthy to me, and I respect him for that.”
When I talk to John Calipari, he says it makes sense that Wes would recommend Memphis to Derrick Rose. “It’s the right fit,” he tells me, and then adds, “Wes is a goodwill ambassador to our program.”
Until now, however, they have just been friendships never explicitly intertwined professionally other than the stories of LeBron watching Kentucky games, Calipari watching Cavs games, and Calipari using his relationship with LeBron as a way to gain cred with recruits. For example, LeBron and John Wall have become friends.
The tea leaves are starting to point towards a more explicit intertwining of these relationships now.
The following is a post by user “Wine and Gold” at RealCavsFans.com. I’d think twice before just dismissing it as “some random forum post”. Even if you don’t know the user (and I don’t), their status on the board speaks volumes, and what he/she says makes logical sense:
I think of late, he’s also had some key people in his life ,,,in his ear poisoning his mind with alternatives.
I’ll put four names together … Leon Rose, Wes Wesley, John Calipari, Lebron James.
I believe parlayed w/ Lebron’s wavering low levels of confidence in Mike Brown, has come these factors in his life that have him mentally compromised.
The Lebron we’re seeing in this series is a Lebron James that no longer trusts, believes, nor buys into ANYTHING coming from our head coach.
The only person I’ve even hinted with in regards to what has been going on has been Jon/Va in a few texts a week or so back. I had heard via some Nike insiders that John Calipari was having strong interests in coming back to the NBA game, but only under the most positive of situations.
Obviously if I’m hearing these things, Lebron is getting them, and more from his people that surround him.
Please note two key, and I believe related issues. Wes Wesley is now an agent representing coaches. To believe he is now working for Calipari would be educated reasoning to say the least
Another key piece …high ranking recruits to Kentucky aren’t signing letters of intent any longer. They are signing something less binding, so that IF Calipari isn’t there any longer, they no longer are tied to that university.
If you are smart, you can begin to piece together a puzzle.
Regarding Calipari specifically, he recently tweeted:
I want to address this with the Big Blue Nation one last time, I will be coaching at Kentucky next year.
You are obviously free to believe him if you like. Jeff Eisenberg of The Dagger takes a far more objective view of this and says that Calipari’s statement leaves no wiggle room (he’s right) and should make Kentucky fans feel better, but not 100% secure.
Personally, if John Calipari told me 2+2 equaled 4, I’d be reaching for a calculator. I don’t know the man personally, but every time I hear him talk I feel like blurting out that I’m happy with my current automobile and am not interested in his used ones.
So I will believe that he’ll be the coach at Kentucky if I see him on the sidelines next season.
A day before Calipari’s tweet and Eisenberg’s subsequent article that I linked to above, Eisenberg had this to say:
It’s too soon to know for sure about either of those questions, but clearly some high-ranking basketball officials believe the answer to both may be yes. Two NBA general managers contacted ESPN.com’s Chad Ford within minutes of the Cavs’ loss to Boston on Thursday night to say that they expect LeBron to end up in Chicago and Calipari to be his coach. And a source close to Calipari told Yahoo! Sports that the Kentucky coach has “got to listen” if the Bulls and Cavaliers come calling as expected.
Former Adidas and Reebok chieftain Sonny Vaccaro echoed those thoughts in an interview with Chicago’s “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on Thursday, suggesting that he could see Calipari bolting for Chicago to coach LeBron and former pupil Derrick Rose.
I won’t excerpt from the stories linked in the above excerpt, but you can click to read more about what they had to say.
Granted, Eisenberg also says “Don’t sit around refreshing Calipari’s Twitter page waiting for such a direct denial because there’s a good chance one won’t come” the day before Calipari issued such a direct denial, but like I said, I don’t think it would stop Calipari from bolting if he found and NBA situation to his liking. So Calipari can tweet whatever he wants to and it won’t change my opinion of where he might end up next season.
Don’t forget that when Nick Saban was with the Dolphins he adamantly said he would not be coaching Alabama pretty soon before he…became the coach at Alabama. Trust head coaches at your own risk. I think only politicians and drug addicts lie more.
Okay, so let’s bring all of these pieces together now:
- William Wesley is a great friend/mentor/adviser to LeBron, introduced him to Jay-Z, etc.
- Leon Rose is LeBron’s agent.
- William Wesley and Leon Rose are close friends/associates.
- Leon Rose is John Calipari’s agent, his first coach client.
- John Calipari and LeBron James have become good friends.
- It could be reasonably said that LeBron is the most powerful single person in the NBA; it could also reasonably be said that Calipari is the most powerful single person in college basketball right now.
- As David Falk said to GQ in 2007, and as has been seconded by a chorus of others, William Wesley is one of the most powerful men in basketball, maybe even all of sports.
So what we have here are three of the most powerful people in the sports world on the precipice of something unprecedented in sports: being able to do dictate, literally, whatever circumstances they want.
- LeBron can hand pick his team and probably his coach wherever he goes.
- John Calipari can stay at one of the best jobs in college basketball and make lots of money OR make even more money and feed his massive ego trying to prove that he can coach in the NBA, assuming he gets the circumstances he wants.
- William Wesley and Leon Rose can prove their alpha status in the NBA and in the sports world by brokering the single most influential move of coach and player in sports history.
If you read the GQ article, the author highlights how often people say that they appreciate how Wesley “never asks for anything.” And that’s probably true. It makes perfect sense that rich, famous athletes who are constantly being hounded for something – money, time, attention, etc. – would gravitate towards a guy who has connections, can hook them up, and who doesn’t explicitly ask for anything in return.
Is it reasonable to think that maybe, just maybe, on the heels of Rose and Wesley’s big move into representing coaches as well as players, that they might ask a little something of their two biggest clients?
It seems reasonable to me, and considering what LeBron and Cal would stand to gain in terms of money, power, and attention, it might not really seem like Wes/Rose are asking for much at all.
Now let’s bring this all back full circle: if LeBron and Cal are, in fact, any kind of package deal, what does it mean for LeBron’s future?
I think it means he ends up in Chicago.
Calipari’s #1 choice would obviously be the Bulls because Derrick Rose is there. LeBron would be attracted to a situation where he could play with another true star, Rose, and an up-and-coming guy like Joakim Noah, who is like a more skilled version of Anderson Varajao. The Bulls would also have flexibility to add some other pieces to their roster.
Also, remember that LeBron is switching to #6 next season. Might that have been because he can’t wear his current #23 in the house that the original #23 built before they retired it in his honor?
I. Don’t. Know. And neither does anyone else. All I’m saying is that in the current maelstrom of rumor, innuendo, and scenarios flying left, right, and middle, this one, unfortunately, makes sense to me.
At this point, everyone is grasping for straws and trying to connect dots that may or may not prove to be connected. This is what the Cavs’ early exit has cursed us with: 6-7 weeks of relatively blind, mostly meaningless speculation. It doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting and fun, but it’s certainly impossible to draw any definitive conclusions.
What I think is important is to understand how to parse the multitudes of reports and rumors. What do you believe? What do you dismiss? What do you allow yourself to be intrigued by and dig a little deeper into?
If the rumor about Delonte West and LeBron’s mom had you intrigued – and I admit it made me stop and pause – my advice would be to ignore it until something legitimate pops up. If the rumor about LeBron and Coach Cal ending up at the same place intrigues you, well, for all of the reasons mentioned above, all I’m saying is that I find that one a lot easier to believe.
On another note, I stumbled upon one more article today that I found interesting. It had specifically nothing to do with the two rumors above, but did seem to provide a little bit of insight into what might have gone wrong with LeBron and the Cavs during the series with the Celtics.
Protest Mode? The LeBron Mystery Deepends — (HoopsHype.com by Ronald Lazenby)
One longtime James associate says James seemed to get caught “in protest mode” in the terrible Game 5 120-88 blowout where he scored a mere 15 points on 3 of 14 shooting.
“I’ve seen him do it before,” said the associate, who has been closely involved with James since youth basketball. “If it’s a decision in a game, LeBron will veto it and do whatever he wants to do. I thought he went into protest mode. Something happened.”
The protest seemed to be set off by a coaching decision in the second quarter, perhaps a substitution.
“He was not even playing aggressive at all,” the associate said.
James’s trademark energy and leadership were absent, reminding the associate in particular of a sequence James’ rookie year where he grew unhappy with teammate Ricky Davis and withdrew emotionally from the proceedings.
In that instance, James disengaged and let Davis “self-destruct” without support. Other stars, Kobe Bryant in particular, have appeared to stage similar protests on occasion during their careers.
If nothing else, it’s food for thought I suppose.
I’m not familiar with the writer so I can’t vouch for his credibility or his source (but that could be more an indictment of him than me). I just thought this was interesting. It certainly makes sense, but again, correlation is not causation.
We’re all searching for answers as to what wrong with the Cavs in the playoffs. The fact of the matter is that we’ll probably never know for sure.
* – LeBron and William Wesley photo credit: Waiting for Next Year
* – John Calipari photo credit: SportsFrog.com
* – LeBron and Gloria James photo credit: BonCherry.com
* – LeBron and John Calipari photo credit: StarsAreBlind.com