Thursday, February 7, 2008

"The Franchise" provides eye-opening look at Lebron, Cavs

Just finished an enjoyable journey through "The Franchise: LeBron James and the remaking of the Cleveland Cavaliers" by Terry Pluto and Brian Windhorst. I'm not much of a book critic, but this one is really worth discussing.

If you're a Cavs fan, you'll find the inside story of how today's franchise came together to be enlightening and educational. If you're a LeBron fan, you'll learn more about him than you already knew .. and I don't mean that he's a Yankees and Cowboys fan.

First, Pluto's and Windhorst's dinstinct writing styles are quite engaging. They each write like educated fans as opposed to those who cover the Cavs as a business or news assignment. That makes this a much easier and enjoyable read.

The book opens with the Cavs in the dumps of the early 80's while a teen mom in Akron was giving birth to a son she named LeBron. The book yings and yangs between LeBron's growth and the Cavs slow, painful death following the Price-Daughtery-Nance years.

The book really delivers on explaining how the Cavs purposely tanked in 2002-03 to improve their chances at LeBron .. and how they would have missed out on the LeBron lottery if that hadn't traded Shawn Kemp three years earlier.

The chapters on the shoe war to land LeBron before the draft were fascinating. I was in Iraq at the time and missed all of it .. so it's all news to me. The war of people around LeBron during his teen years is also well told.

Pluto and Windhorst also do a great job of taking the reader inside the war room of rebuilding the Cavs after they won the lottery. As a fan, I really didn't care for Jim Paxon one bit as GM, but after reading The Franchise, I have a much greater appreciation for his work and his dedication to family.

You'll also have a new respect -- make that a new love -- for Cavs owner Dan Gilbert after reading this book. If the Cavs can't win a championship with Gilbert as the owner, no one can.

If you're hoping for behind-the-scenes stories of the 2007 playoffs, forget it .. the topic doesn't come up until the last 10 pages ... although it's great to relive the team's first appearance in the Finals, even if they got swept.

I'm still looking for a book that definitively explains how LeBron James was able to afford tuition at St. Vincent-St. Mary while being raised by a mother who could barely afford to put food on the table. Call it the one question that won't go away in the back of my head.

Still, if you'd like better insight into how the current Cavs, the arena, and even the posse that surrounds LeBron was built from the ground up, you'll truly enjoy The Franchise.


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