Last week LeBron James finally got his NBA championship. The media circus that incessantly followed him throughout his career, although not completely gone, can at least take a breather. He took his talents to South Beach and may have ruined professional basketball in the process. His victory validated the overt cowardice of teaming up with rivals instead of competing against them. Now every NBA star is following suit and it is leading to an unbalanced, top-heavy league that I believe will be in major trouble in a year or two when every All-Star in the league comes from one of five teams and 80% of the league is out of title contention before the season even starts. Ticket sales across the board will fade faster than LeBron’s hair line and commissioner David Stern will be out of answers.
The question that I keep asking is will this fashionable disease spread to the NFL? And more specifically, will MoJo catch it?
The way the Jaguars and general manager Gene Smith stand now, MoJo will not be receiving a contract extension or restructuring. This means the Jaguars most valued asset will be in the last year his contract next year. If the team doesn’t make significant strides this year, and with a new coaching staff and young quarterback it is certainly possible, MoJo could find himself in a LeBron James predicament.
James had to decide whether to remain the face of a small market franchise and hope they could build a solid team around him before the end of his prime or go to a large market team where the team’s success doesn’t completely depend on his unbridled domination every game and his marketability and championship odds increase exponentially.
If the 2012 free agency period is any indication, however, I believe the Jaguars are in luck. First of all, the Jaguars retained their free agents, which shows our team’s willingness to step up when the time comes and that the players truly have faith in the environment surrounding Jacksonville’s beloved franchise. Secondly, major stars that did leave their previous teams headed for ones in smaller markets with less recent success. Mario Williams chose to take his talents to perennially disappointing and frozen Buffalo instead of staying in Houston where the Texans just won their franchise’s first division title and playoff game. Williams chose a weak team in a difficult division instead of a strong team in a big city and weak division. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson decided Tampa would be a better fit than staying in San Diego. While both franchises have struggled with ticket sales, there is little dispute that Philip Rivers is a better quarterback than Tampa’s Josh Freeman. As with Williams, Jackson chose a much harder division. The Bucs are in the NFC South with the Saints, Falcons, and Panthers, whereas his former Chargers are in the AFC West with the Broncos, Chiefs, and Raiders. These actions show that stars in the NFL still like to compete against the best and be “the man” on ascending teams.
The next two years appear to be a behind-the-scenes game of chicken between MoJo and Jaguars’ management. It is in the team’s best interest to lock him into an extension now while he still wants to be a Jaguar. We all know what can happen when better equipped, more popular teams come courting…