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Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Right as the clock struck 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday morning, officially starting this summer's free-agency bonanza, LeBron James(notes) received three things — several phone calls from interested teams, a knock on his door and a mysterious package. Since the package was mysterious, no one knew what it contained. But now that we're a few days past the start of the offseason signing period, someone has to take credit for the move.

[Photos: LeBron's recruitment tour]

As it turns out, the package James received was from Chicago. And as it turns out, it was the final piece in a week-long marketing initiative by the Chicago-based Leo Burnett Worldwide ad agency. From the Chicago Tribune's Steve Johnson:

"LeBron, the fans of Chicago have a question for you," reads the two-page ad that ran in Thursday's Akron Beacon Journal, James' hometown paper. "Can you cast a shadow this big?"

The image is of an outline that looks a lot like Michael Jordan's, in the iconic, ball-in-one-hand pose, spread out over the Chicago cityscape. Dreamed up by sports-loving ad guys at the city's Leo Burnett agency and paid for by Burnett, it was the culmination of a four-day campaign featuring a fresh challenge each day. [...]

So Monday, they sent to his house the classic red, white and black Air Jordans and asked if he could fill those shoes. Tuesday it was a case featuring seven empty ring boxes, representing one more championship than Jordan won here, and the question, "Can you fill these boxes?"

Wednesday was a mock-up of a Chicago Tribune 10 years hence - still going strong, by the way - and the headline "Sweet Throne, Chicago: With Title No. 7, It's Officially King James' Court."

Bold. I mean, wowsers, you guys. Flaunting Chicago and Michael Jordan's legacy in James' hometown is about as direct as you can be when addressing what many see as James' biggest hurdle when considering signing with the Bulls. No use beating around the bush, I guess. Readily acknowledging that LeBron would have a lot of work to do to catch Jordan is playing to James' competitive side, and doing that would be just the kind of thing that would set Jordan off. I think that's irony, but I'm not a big Alanis Morissette fan.

It feels like this move might tell us a little bit about what LeBron is really after and whether or not he's willing to intentionally position himself against the greatest player of all-time. At the very least, it's a pretty cool campaign — Don Draper would be proud — and LeBron got a pair of awesome shoes. I think that makes him the big winner in all of this.

(h/t Chris Littmann)

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