Marc Daniels: Did LeBron Rip Orlando? No, But The Magic Face NBA Problem


Washington Mystics v Las Vegas Aces - Game Four

If you watched the clip from LeBron James' show "The Barbershop" and concluded he was ripping Orlando and all it has to offer, then you likely don't like James and took what you wanted from the clip.

James wasn't bashing the city as a bad place to live or a destination whose theme parks are nothing more than a wasteland of rides and parades and silly hats.

James was referring to his time in the NBA "bubble" where he, and other NBA players, spent months in a confined environment with no access to the outside world, family and friends. And yes, James spent most of his time at one of the nicest resorts on Disney property and had anything he wanted brought to him within minutes. You may say you would happily trade places with James, but you didn't and you don't know the time away from family and the confinements of the NBA's mini-world and what it would have done to you.

James didn't rip downtown Orlando. My guess is, he's never been to our local sites and enjoyed everything central Florida has to offer. But there is a bigger challenge for the Orlando Magic and many other NBA cities.

Orlando has been a place where some of the biggest stars have shined: Shaq, Penny, T-Mac and Dwight. Yet all left and the endings were not good. But the present picture should be concerning to any Magic fan. This town is a place where many sports stars have come to live and enjoy. Many PGA, MLB, NFL and others call Orlando home. They like the weather, the tax benefits in our state, access to a great airport and many other things that make this town great.

But look around the NBA and you will find many cities that likely are not a destination for superstars and may not be for years to come or ever. Others have said it, but the NBA has lots of real estate that young stars don't see as an interesting place to live and play. 

Indiana, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Charlotte, Toronto, New Orleans, Sacramento and Minnesota are just a few places that have little chance to land a young superstar in free agency. While Orlando is a great place to live, a young 23-year old rising star or 8-time all-star may not find it as appealing as Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Chicago, Dallas or other larger cities where someone sees a chance to build a bigger brand.

Look around and study where big name free agents have signed in recent years or where players are choosing to pair up. It's not the smaller market. 

It's why the Magic need to find a young star fresh into their career and hope that player is so good he would attract someone to come play with them. Having salary cap space just doesn't cut it these days. Plus, players like Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis and James Harden have exposed the game plan to get yourself traded before your free agency time. It's why the Pelicans should be nervous when Zion Williamson talks about playing at Madison Square Garden and even hints at his recent end-of-the-season presser that his team has a long way to go.

Teams can trade for players to go with their superstar as the Bucks did with Jrue Holiday joining Giannis but the Bucks will be challenged to get a free agent to pick their town. MIlwaukee is a great place, but to a 26-year old all-star it is a tough sell.

If the Magic had cap space to sign two all-star caliber players, would they sign here? Be honest, the chance of that is small, very small. It's why they need to develop a star and hope someone wants to play with him.

Are the Magic doing anything wrong in selling Orlando as a free agent destination? No. There has been no chance to land a free agent for the last decade because of their rebuilding plans. Mayor Buddy Dyer jumped on twitter to invite LeBron to have lunch and explore what Orlando has to offer. I love Buddy and I am convinced he can sell our town as well as anyone. But there is nothing wrong with Orlando to most. It's just that a young person in the NBA today doesn't view this town as a destination.

The NFL is built differently. Players know their careers are short and they are more likely to jump at the money regardless of the market. But winning also helps. The Magic can help themselves by winning with a young star or a couple of young stars. It's what brought Horace Grant here. He saw a chance to play with Shaq and win titles. The Shaq left and it wasn't as special any more.

So LeBron wasn't ripping our town. He was talking about the bubble. But the reality is, Orlando is one of many NBA towns that is challenged to attract free agents without a star in place. Which brings us back to what the team needs. The Magic need to develop a star. If it was only that easy.

Final thought: The yo-yo dates back to 500 BC in Greece.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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