About four o’clock this dark morning five armored SUVs enter an Akron estate, a man in the first vehicle using an electronic device to open the wrought iron gate, and speed to the entrance of a mansion boasting more than thirty thousand square feet. At least ten camouflaged commandos emerge from somewhere and aim automatic weapons at the intruders. From the second SUV steps Dan Gilbert who says, “Relax, it’s me. Tell him I’m here.”
“You got an appointment?” says a commando.
“Don’t need one.”
“Come back when you’re expected.”
Gilbert extends his hand toward an open vehicle door and is handed a microphone powered by the running engine. “LeBron, I’ll give you two minutes to get down here.”
The amplified voice rattles windows. In less than a minute LeBron James, attired in red silk pajamas, sprints out the front door and says, “What the hell’s this, Gilbert? Consider yourself under arrest.”
“You’ve kept me biting my nails long enough. Who are you going to play for next year?”
“I haven’t decided yet.” LeBron turns toward his residence and shouts, “Bring me my manifesto.”
Another employee, this one attired like General Patton and sporting a pearl-handle revolver on each hip, runs from the house and says, “Here it is, sir.”
“Give me the mike, Dan.” The wee team owner complies, and all the neighbors surely hear, “‘I don’t know why I’m being gracious after getting swept by the Warriors, and beaten by them eight of the last nine title games, and three out of the last four NBA finals. Let’s be honest, my Cavaliers were as good as this celebrated squad until the addition of Kevin Durant two years ago. I can’t fault Durant, who hadn’t sniffed a title before joining a team that had just won seventy-three times in the regular season and extended us to seven in a thrilling series won by us. Durant wanted some championship hardware, and knew my Miami Heat had snuffed his Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 and my Cavs had beaten the 2016 Warriors when his team had failed to do so. I’m not jealous. I say this merely in the interest of historical accuracy.
“‘Kevin Durant has earned his two straight finals MVP awards. And he certainly should be credited for following my blueprint of assembling star-laden teams in Miami and Cleveland. I at least tried to maintain a modicum of balance and only joined two standouts. Durant jumped into the protective arms of three virtuosos and would probably like to play with a few more. But you won’t hear me disparaging this front-running beanpole. Indeed, I now consider myself an advocate of Durant’s quest for unspeakable basketball wealth.’
“That’s all I’ve got so far, Dan.”
“It’s enough to tell me you won’t be playing for us.”
“In my place, would you?”
Gilbert points at LeBron and seems ready to speak but says nothing.
“The media reports are correct. My administrative team and I are considering the Houston Rockets. With me, there’s no doubt they’d have beaten the Warriors, instead of losing in seven games, the final two without Chris Paul. I’ve also been quite frank, some even say too enthusiastic, about my admiration of young studs Ben Simmons and Joel Embid in Philadelphia. I’ll also consider the Lakers but will have to bring another star with me because my addition alone won’t immediately lead to a title on a team of talented but still immature young teammates. I hope that helps, Dan.”
“What about Cleveland, LeBron? I’ve spent hundreds of millions getting the players you asked for.”
“I asked you not to trade Kyrie Irving, to tell him he had two years left on his contract. But I concede you’ve spent vigorously to try to sustain our excellence. Now, though, you’re tied down by huge contracts for players we can empirically state aren’t good enough. I have to move on, Dan. And you need to rebuild.”
Gilbert walks to LeBron and shakes his hand. He returns to his vehicle and the armored SUVs pull away.