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May 31, 2010 11:43 AM

Selling Chicago to LeBron

Via Crain's Chicago Business, University of Illinois at Chicago economist John Skoburg estimates that LeBron James could bring up to $2.7 billion to the city if he signs with the Bulls and, as would be expected, takes them on frequent playoff runs and wins a few NBA titles.

The Bulls offer LeBron the best chance of any potential suitor to win championships immediately, and that is their #1 selling point since championships are the best way to boost exposure and endorsement earning potential.

Another key, though under-reported, selling point for the Bulls should be legacy. While LeBron may worry about always being mentioned behind Jordan in franchise lore, Chicago would offer him the opportunity to secure the Bulls a place alongside (or slightly below) the Lakers and Celtics in the class of elite NBA franchises. Bulls history would single out Jordan and LeBron, just as Celtics history singles out Bill Russell and Larry Bird (among others, of course) and Lakers history singles out players like Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe.

I tend to think that when you excel with a legendary franchise, your career takes on more consequence than if you're the hero of a middling franchise that reverts back to mediocrity when you leave (Cleveland, New Jersey). That's where the Bulls are today -- but LeBron has a chance to change that.

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