This weekend, Alex Block analyzed basketball phenom LeBron James‘ decision to “take his talents to South Beach,” bypassing Cleveland’s millions for the chance to play with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. That led me to urban thought leader Richard Florida‘s take on the subject, which concludes:
So why Miami? Why would the “Three Kings” choose this particular location over, say, the Big Apple or L.A.? The reasons, I believe, lie deeper than its low taxes, abundant sun, and great nightlife. Experts and average people alike tend to think that companies pick places that offer the best cost profiles and that people go to the cities that give them the highest salaries and biggest bang for the buck.
But real entrepreneurs – those who want to build something new – sometimes pick “frontier locations,” places where they can mold the environment to help them reach their desired goals, like the tech pioneers of Silicon Valley in the late 60s and 70s, or Hollywood’s early moguls. Perhaps this is what Miami had to offer “the Three Kings.” The place is diverse enough, open-minded enough, free-wheeling enough, and hungry enough that they can make their own rules. The media spotlight is less glaring than in New York. And Miami is incredibly diverse, all the way to the very top of its social order – it is home to extremely wealthy Latinos, Middle-Easterners, Russians, and African Americans who have made money their own way. Wade has been there; he has insider information, he knows the place very, very well. Not just its clubs and restaurants, but its deeper resources, the way it works….
Miami offered the best place where these three savvy, talented, and surpassingly entrepreneurial young men could create their own kind of space – a more open-ended space, where they could realize their ambitions and dreams. The more I think about what they have pulled off, the more amazed I am. They are true Wild West cowboys; Horatio Alger made flesh. They have shown us how very good they are at America’s most important game, one that goes beyond sports and even money-making to the very heart of the American dream: of writing your own ticket and forging your own path, of doing it – and having it – one’s own way.
With one column, James has become yet another datapoint in Florida’s macro-theory of everything. Now, I don’t know anything about basketball. But I’m pretty sure that Miami’s diversity and “deeper resources” had little to do with James’ decision. As he put it:
“Winning is a huge thing for me,” James said of his commitment. “The major reason in my decision was the best opportunity for me to win, to win now and in the future also. I’ve done some great things in my seven years and I want to continue to do that.”
In that way, James starts to sound a lot like Northrop Grumman, which was almost as intensively courted by D.C., Maryland, and Virginia as James was by the various teams that wanted him. As much as Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell wanted to credit the aerospace company’s selection of his state to the wonderful quality of life, it ultimately came down to economics. James also made his choice based on the factor that he judged would lead to his greatest level of success, rather than any particular urban quality of Miami (besides the talent of his new teammates). Florida is basically right that James was drawn to talent, unbound by place and history and traditional allegiances. But the rest is pretty clearly just Floridian B.S.
Wouldn’t be the first time Florida isn’t wrong, just superfluous.