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Basketball Fri May 14 2010
Ever since LeBron James signed his last contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, all eyes began to focus on July 1st, 2010. This will be the first day that the biggest star in all of the NBA will be available for courtship. Teams will surely be at the James residence at 12:01 AM that day, but before official moves can be made, fans and cities can make their voices heard.
Chicago has vaulted itself into the LeBron James sweepstakes through various moves throughout the past season. The team is positioned to make a legitimate run at signing the modern day Michael Jordan. With this said, it will take more than a mega contract to make this fan-dream come true.
AJ Barthold, for one, is not going to sit back and let the fate of his beloved Bulls be left to management deals. He has started a campaign to organize the fans and communities in Chicago behind this effort. Gapers Block spoke with the man behind the movement, "Send LeBron to Chicago."
Was there a specific moment or event that led you to starting the "Send LeBron to Chicago" campaign?
AJ Barthold: I was always a Bulls fan, I have always been a LeBron fan. I wished for him to play on the Bulls for a long time. This is the first realistic shot the Bulls have had in making that happen. I was aware of his free agency status for a few years now, but I would say the campaign idea became detailed in my thoughts 2 months ago.
Until recently, as in the Game 5 loss (LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers went down to the Boston Celtics in their Best-of-Seven series 3-2), did you actually think there was a realistic chance for the Bulls to land LeBron?
Yes. I always thought there was a chance. We have it all here! Tradition, big market, international brand, great fans who sell out every game and the young talent of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Also, LeBron grew up a Bulls fan.
Can't argue with that logic. Now there are a lot of conspiracy theories floating around about LeBron's performance in Game 5. Do you think the free agent situation is playing into LeBron's play on the court?
I won't buy into conspiracies that suggest LeBron would purposely lose. I think he is quite the competitor and he has been playing through pain from his elbow injury that may require surgery. He won't make excuses and you can not give your opponent any ideas by suggesting you are in pain, especially against a physical team like the Boston Celtics.
I tend to agree, but Cleveland fans are prone to believing anything right now. So, we just saw the power of social media with Betty White being boosted into a hosting role on "Saturday Night Live" mainly due to a Facebook group. Do you believe that this kind of group initiative can have an influence in the sports world?
Yes, social media is a powerful tool. When you start a campaign that thousands of people are behind and are passionate about, then you can have a powerful result. This campaign would have a hard time gaining legs without social media. Social media is great for retaining visitors and also for the obvious communication it provides.
What kind of things do you have planned to spread the word about this grass roots campaign in a build up to the all important July 1st date?
Right now the key is to get the media involved, we already received recognition from Sports Illustrated and ESPN. Now it is time for local coverage. Bulls fans deserve this. The Bulls fans have stuck by their team even when the Bulls were the bottom-feeders of the league. I will continue to add quality content that is logical on why LeBron and the Bulls are an ideal match. This campaign will be up to the Bulls fans on what our results are. We don't know if our passion would influence the decision of James in the end, but at least we can say we tried and not live with any regret.
I'm sure that is a ideology that Chicago can get behind. Last one for you, what are your thoughts on the last night's game and how the different results may dictate LeBron's off-season choices?
If the Cavs would have won, that may have led to a sentimental return to Cleveland for LeBron. Cavs fans would probably give him a standing ovation for 10 minutes, or so. You don't know what you have until it's gone, or if you almost lost it. With all the speculation up in the air, and the wonder if LeBron would ever step in Quicken Loans Arena again wearing a Cavs jersey, would definitely raise the emotions. LeBron could then feed off that energy and bring a title to Cleveland. That's how crazy sports are, the faith of the next 10 years can change on one moment, injury, missed shot, turnover or missed opportunity.
Thanks for the time. Good luck with the campaign and go Bulls!
You can get more information about the grass roots movement to attract LeBron James and how you can help at SendLeBrontoChicago.com. Follow along with updates at the Twitter account @LeBrontoChicago and join the Facebook group.