Upstaged

How LeBron James Could Upstage the 2016 GOP Convention


LeBron James of the Miami Heat during Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals on June 15

Photograph by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

LeBron James of the Miami Heat during Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals on June 15

The front page of Wednesday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer trumpeted the news that the city has won the competition to host the 2016 Republican Convention. But the competition Clevelanders really want to win is the one for the services of LeBron James, who’s a free agent and contemplating a reunion with his old team. Weirdly enough, if events were to unfold just so, LeBron could wind up upstaging the GOP convention two years from now.

Ordinarily, far-flung “what if” scenarios aren’t worth paying much attention to. Except in this case, a potential collision between the NBA and the 2016 GOP convention has already been cited by prominent leaders in each party. Just after Tuesday’s announcement that Cleveland would host the convention in late June or July, I spoke with Obama’s campaign guru, David Plouffe, who criticized the timing, pointing out that a June convention would have to compete for viewers with the NBA finals—no easy task.

In an interview with Fox News, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus also raised the complicating factor of the NBA championship, saying it was something that Republicans would need to work out.

I’ll leave it to Nate Silver to gauge the odds of this actually happening, but a nightmare scenario could conceivably come into play. Right now, the Cleveland Cavaliers are furiously clearing cap space in an effort lure James back to town. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. The Cavs, led by Kyrie Irving, have plenty of young talent. Let’s say James takes the plunge. And let’s say that, two years from now, the Cavs are in the NBA finals. That would be one of the all-time great story lines in sports. Cleveland would go bonkers. And whichever unfortunate soul happened to be the Republican nominee would have to compete with all this.

According to Plouffe—and who could argue?—that person would be screwed. “My strong suspicion,” says Plouffe, “is that the good citizens of Cleveland would not find Ted Cruz and Rand Paul adequate competition for LeBron.”

Green_190
Green is senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaGreen.

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