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Toronto is not a dark horse candidate to sign LeBron James

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Despite the random words of ESPN’s Chris Haynes, it feels ridiculous to even speculate about the idea of LeBron coming to Toronto.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s feels irresponsible for a reporter to connect Toronto to LeBron James as a possible target in free agency. Just saying or writing those words together in a sentence, one detached from other words like “sonned”, “destroyed”, “swept”, et. al. and etc., should force said reporter before some sort of ethics tribunal, the words creating as they do fantasies that stand wholly apart from reality. We’re just trying to live our lives in peace over here!

LeBron James is not going to sign with the Raptors. In fact, as loathe as I am to utter the following words, here we are: any notion to the contrary is fake news.

Still, that’s just not how at least part of the internet economy works. After those words — LeBron, Toronto — are uttered adjacent, a spiral of content begins. Each forthcoming sentiment on this subject must be catalogued, aggregated, and broadcast, with responses — additional speculation or dismissal — all but required from the appropriate parties. I tried to fight against it too, but I also did not succeed.

Here’s the start of this particular ouroboros: On Thursday, ESPN reporter Chris Haynes appeared on the Athletic’s Tim Kawakami’s podcast and rhymed off a few teams as possible destinations for LeBron James in his coming moment of free agency. The King has been signing a series of one-and-one deals with Cleveland to maintain the maximum amount of personal leverage and career flexibility. Every year, LeBron has a new salary to negotiate, and a new choice to make — even though, since 2014, it has felt inevitable for James to return to the Cavaliers.

Except now, with Cleveland still atop the Eastern Conference but down 0-3 in the Finals and looking quite unable to best the Warriors, it does not.

Enter a surfeit of other teams. And hope — as brilliant and beautiful as it is perhaps misguided, reckless, and possibly destructive.

From the podcast, here’s the transcribed Haynes quote in question:

“Houston has been linked a lot,” said Haynes. “I’ve been told that’s not a realistic option.

”Philly of course, that’s legit.

”The Lakers are still in play but they’re not as hot as it was before, but you’re going to grant Magic Johnson a meeting. You’re going to do that and listen. The Lakers have been setting up for two years for this summer.

”Then I’m going to throw out a dark horse, the Toronto Raptors. And let’s not overlook the Boston Celtics. I think the Celtics are in that realm with Golden State where if Boston reached out and said ‘We’re serious’, LeBron would listen.”

So there we have it, the teams: Houston (not realistic), Philadelphia (legit), Los Angeles (not as hot), Boston (not to be overlooked), and Toronto (dark horse). It’s been spoken into existence, even written in black and white on the digital page, but we know it’s not real.

We’ve seen this particular horse race before. In 2010, LeBron was set to leave Cleveland for the first time, and teams began doing everything possible — dumping players, clearing cap space, remaking their entire identity in the (false) hope of landing this golden ticket of basketball. These teams would say and believe anything, talk themselves and others into everything. They were willing to set their house on fire if it meant the smoke and blaze may reach the eyes of the best player on the planet. Some are still trying to recover. They believed in something even though it was never really there, and it cost them.

Far away from basketball, there’s something instructive here, a lesson that feels particularly urgent this morning in Ontario, as we embark on our own extended period of in-house arson.

Hope is important, yes, but please consider where it comes from and where it leads; think about who is doing the promising along with what is being guaranteed. And always, always, keep the wide vista of shared reality in view — especially those who work to change it.