Today is the day. LeBron James, the most coveted free agent in the history of the NBA, will announce where he will be playing basketball for the next few years during a special show tonight at 9 p.m. on ESPN. Obviously the sports world is waiting with bated breath for James to make his intentions known, but the entertainment universe is also tuning in. Considering what a huge cross-cultural star King James has been, his new home will most certainly have an effect on the local music and culture scenes, which is why so many hip-hop personalities have gotten involved (including Fat Joe, Diddy and friend and partial New Jersey Nets owner Jay-Z).
In fact, signing James is so important to the handful of teams still in the hunt for his services that most of them have already signed other top-tier free agents in order to provide James a convincing supporting cast with which he can win an NBA championship. But if LeBron should sign with any of the teams below, what will be the best hip-hop association to make?
New York Knicks
Complimentary Player: Amar’e Stoudemire
Hip-Hop Equivalent: Method Man and Redman
The Knicks have been preparing to court James for more than two years, steadily clearing salary cap space, hiring a new coach and turning over most of the roster. They recently inked a deal with Amar’e Stoudemire, the big man from the Phoenix Suns who will provide defensive assistance and low post support. James is Method Man in this instance because he is both incredibly talented and wildly charismatic. Stoudemire is Redman because he is skilled, unpredictable and has the tendency to disappear for long stretches.
Complimentary Players: Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh
Hip-Hop Equivalent: Westside Connection
The Heat want James so bad that they not only are cutting deals with their established superstar Wade (who already has one championship with the team) and former Toronto Raptors swingman Chris Bosh. If James shows up, they’ll be the new Westside Connection (though they’ll probably have to be called the “South Beach Connection” or something like that), with LeBron as Ice Cube, Wade as Mack 10 and Bosh as WC (if only because he’s the guy people know the least about).
Complimentary Player: Carlos Boozer
Hip-Hop Equivalent: Raekwon and Ghostface
There were rumors flying around that the James/Wade/Bosh connection would all end up in Chicago, but instead the Bulls signed a deal with former Utah Jazz star Boozer, who played with LeBron during the latter’s rookie season with the Cavaliers. Boozer blossomed into an offensive-minded superstar while in Utah, but he’s better off as a compliment to a major scorer. In that sense, James and Boozer would be like Raekwon and Ghostface, with James as the vibrant, charismatic Ghost and Boozer as the fundamentally sound, still-able-to-thrill-you Rae.
Los Angeles Clippers
Complimentary Player: Nobody signed (save for new coach Vinny Del Negro)
Hip-Hop Equivalent: The Refugee All-Stars
Though it seems like the Clippers have fallen off as a major contender, they still could somehow make a move. Their core isn’t terrible (including Baron Davis, Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman), but James will be Wyclef in this scenario (the breakout star who carries everybody else) and the others standing in as Pras, John Forte and City High.
Complimentary Player: Nobody signed
Hip-Hop Equivalent: Bad Boy
The Cavaliers’ main selling point is that LeBron grew up in nearby Akron and has already established a presence in the city of Cleveland. They don’t have any big stars signed, though there’s always a possibility they could bring somebody in. In that sense, James would be Diddy to the rest of the Cavs’ Bad Boy family, because no matter who Mr. Combs brought in, at the end of the day, he was the guy who ran everything.