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"The Franchise"

In "The Franchise", Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Terry Pluto and Akron Beacon Journal reporter Brian Windhorst explain what makes LeBron James "The Guy" around whom a pro basketball franchise can be rebuilt. Then they discuss the means by which this can be accomplished, from the construction of a team designed to lose, thereby achieving a shot at the number one pick in the lottery, to the creation of a locker room sumptuous enough to convince "The Guy" that the owner is ready to go first class all the way, and that there's no point in aspiring to play anywhere else.

Pluto and Windhorst balance stories of the basketball prowess of LebBron James with tales of the business triumphs and various "isms" of Dan Gilbert, who owns the team. "The Franchise" provides a sense of the mix of planning, investment, and luck necessary to build a successful team...or at least one of the mixes. As the Cleveland franchise develops, coaches who couldn't possibly have won with the rosters their general managers provided get fired, mediocre players are traded away for genuinely bad players so that the Cavs will secure a spot in the lottery, and eventually LeBron James suits up. Very shortly thereafter, the Cavs, previously last in the league in attendance, are selling all the courtside seats they can provide for $1,700 each.

It would have been no trick for Pluto and Windhorst to celebrate the talents of LeBron James. Anybody with access to the NBA's highlight reel knows how well James plays. But fans know less about how teams are constructed, dismantled, and reconstructed, and how challenging it must be to build a group comprised of stars, role players, has-beens, deluded rookies, born-agains, and self-absorbed wackos into a team that wins a lot more often than it loses. "The Franchise" gives us a look at that process.

This program aired on February 29, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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