The LeBron James Sweepstakes

Gregory Shamus, Getty Images
Gregory Shamus, Getty Images

These are anxious times in the city of Cleveland where a downtown banner in honor of two-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James proclaims, "Born Here. Raised Here. Plays Here. Stays Here."

In most cases, three out of four is seen as a winning percentage. (I know I would've glady accepted that as a batting average while asking girls out back in high school as opposed to the school record hitless streak I preserved through graduation.)

But whether James stays in Cleveland with July 1 free agency approaching is a complete game changer in the mental health of a dedicated, reinvigorated but still mostly hapless sports town.

Taking down the "Born here" banner is the least of it. Having to use it to break falls from high ledges -- fireman rescue style -- is a possibility if LeBron bolts.

Only the Cavaliers can talk to James between now and July. NBA rules allow teams to pay more than other suitors to keep their own superstars. Yet, James' announced intention to "go through the process" and his track record of flirting with New York is the cause of much trepidation and -- at the very least -- downgrades the banner declarative to a question:

Stays Here?

Musical Chairs (Really Expensive Ones)

James, Miami's Dwyane Wade and Toronto's Chris Bosh are friends and Olympic teammates who orchestrated their free agencies to coincide, thereby raising the volume and increasing the tempo in this game of high-stakes musical chairs.

In part for that reason, this is like no other free agency. Baseball, still without a salary cap all these years later, most often produces the free-agent buzz. Alex Rodriguez signed with Texas for $252 million over 10 years. Long before him, Pete Rose made the one of the first ego-inflating "free agent tours" in 1978.

Only in basketball, though, can one superstar change the fortunes of a franchise so quickly. And James is launching himself into those waters at the height of his game and at the still precocious age of 25.

Forbes magazine estimates that the Cavaliers franchise was worth approximately $250 million the year before James came out of high school in Akron, Ohio, and went to work 30 miles north. This past season, in which every home game was sold out, the magazine estimated owner Dan Gilbert's investment at $476 million.

The stakes in part explain why Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland recently stopped in town to join a chorus of local celebrities and politicians in serenading James in a "Please Stay LeBron" video to the tune of "We Are The World."

Strickland defended taking time out of his busy schedule, telling reporters, "Come on, this is economic development. Do you know how important this is to the state of Ohio? LeBron means a lot to the future of our state."

Comedian Mike Polk came up with the idea for the video. His previous Cleveland tourism videos were outrageously funny, though some city officials didn't see the humor. Maybe some of the lyrics -- "Buy a home for the price of a VCR" -- had something to do with it. So, too, the battle cry sign-off of "We're not Detroit!"

The LeBron video was likewise done for comic relief. Some outsiders took it seriously. (I mean, folks, really now. We know "We Are The World" was originally used to raise awareness about world hunger. That's the joke.)

Polk put a famous-in-Cleveland furniture salesman and a personal injury lawyer on the same stage with the Governor and had a U.S. Senator (Sherrod Brown) pipe in on a remote feed. The lyrics offer to name every street in the city after James.

Which, of course, is ridiculous. Too costly. They'd just change the town name to LeBronland.

The LeBron-O-Meter

On the subject of things LeBron, the website partner of the newspaper I work for, The Plain Dealer, began running a daily LeBron-O-Meter offering a daily measurement (do I need to say "unscientific"?) of this period of transition.

Depending on the news or rumor of the day, the LeBron-O-Meter needle can settle into any one of five areas:

Staying.

Looking Good.

Keep 'em Guessing.

Uh-Oh.

Gone.

(It strikes me that given the divorce rate in 2010, this could be a handy tool for marriage counselors to give couples to better help them deal with issues as they arise.)

Everywhere the people of Cleveland look these days they find other women flirting with their beau and third parties sticking their noses in and adding to the stress.

His Many Suitors

From New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he wants James to know what a great place his town is to raise kids. (James has two children.)

On behalf of Chicago, President Obama told Marv Albert in a recent interview that the Bulls would be a "great fit" for James.

Cleveland Browns' great Jim Brown says James will leave because Cavaliers fans were so harsh in their criticism of him after the team's surprising second round loss to the Boston Celtics.

The same day, author Buzz Bissinger, who did a book on James and his high school teammates, said James probably should leave for the benefit of his emotional development because Cleveland fans have coddled him too much.

In Dallas, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $100,000 by the NBA for saying the obvious -- the Mavs would be interested in James if he chooses not to stay in Cleveland.

In Los Angeles, 75 fans of the Clippers staged a parade around Staples Center last Thursday to show James how much they want him. That's impressive. I mean, who knew the Clippers had 75 fans and that they'd know how to stage a parade?

Not to be outdone, a 23-year-old transplanted Clevelander by the name of Brandon George, is intent on making James understand how important it is that he stay in Cleveland.

So George, who lives in Atlanta, waxed his chest.

Then he brushed his teeth with Dave's Insanity Hot Sauce.

I don't know the state of his list, but at that point he had 21 other self-tortures planned. Twenty three in all to match James' jersey number.

George started inlebronwetrust.com. Similar sites have cropped up on behalf of other fan bases. There are at least 67 Facebook groups dedicated to bringing James to New York.

His free agent tour can start on July 1. It'll be the recruiting period he never had as a high school senior, seeing as how every college recruiter knew it would be a waste of time since James long planned to go right from high school to the NBA.

With the NBA keeping an eagle's eye out for tampering with other teams' players ahead of the July 1 date, no organization is even hinting at how it will go about enticing James. Only a handful of teams have the salary cap flexibility to sign a superstar looking for a max contract.

Recruiting Pete Rose

Coincidentally, one of the first free agent tours also involved a hometown guy facing the prospect of leaving his local team—the aforementioned Pete Rose in 1978.

What I remember about that first ego trip was that Rose appeared to be wearing Zsa Zsa Gabor's fur coat.

Atlanta, Kansas City, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were among those who declared interest in Rose as part of a free agent re-entry draft back then.

Rose chartered a Lear jet and showed up places wearing a $4,000 mink coat. Earlier in the 1978 season, the Reds had asked Rose to stop driving his Rolls Royce to the park because it "made the fans mad." Rose refused.

He took two things on the trip. His agent, Reuven Katz, was one.

The other was a 25-minute video tape of his highlights.

Rose had already won it all with the Big Red Machine. He'd chased Joe DiMaggio's 56-game record hit streak. And he needed a video?

In Atlanta, Ted Turner offered him $1 million a year while he played and $100,000 a year for life in retirement.

In Kansas City, Kaufmann offered him a four-year deal and an oil investment.

Augie Busch in St. Louis offered a beer distributorship.

The Galbreath family in Pittsburgh, which owned Dandy Don Farms, were willing to cut him into the thoroughbred biz.

When Rose accepted a four-year deal in Philadelphia, he left money on the table but wasn't worried.

Of his four-year, $3.2 million contract, Rose said, "You could stack it all up and a show dog couldn't jump over it."

Keep 'em guessing

NBA rules prohibit teams from circumventing the salary cap these days. Like Rose choosing the Phillies because he felt they gave him the best chance to win a World Series, James says his decision will be all about the opportunity to win championships.

When he accepted his second consecutive MVP award during the Boston series, he staged the ceremony at the University of Akron basketball arena where he played many games as a high schooler. His family and friends and teammates all joined him.

Looking at the scene that that day, you couldn't help but think that it would take something extraordinary to extract James from his comfort zone in Northeast Ohio, what with the Cavaliers on the verge of a title.

Someone asked him about that in not those exact words.

"Wherever I go, Akron will always be my home," he said.

On the LeBron-O-Meter, that was "Keep 'em guessing."

Then the Cavs lost three straight to the Celtics and the series.

That put Cleveland fans in "Uh-oh" land.

The LeBron Sweepstakes

Cleveland Cavaliers

Pluses: The Cavs can offer James more money. If he signs a three-year deal, which is the conventional thought, he could make $9 or $10 million more simply by staying. Cavaliers' owner, Dan Gilbert, has spared no expense in trying to build a winner around James. His mother, long-time girlfriend and children are already here. Head coach unsettled after the firing of Mike Brown. But James could have a say in his successor. In a CNN interview with Larry King, James said that Cleveland "absolutely" had an advantage over his other suitors.

Minuses: The Cavs' roster may take a year or more to overhaul and they've lost salary cap flexibility in chasing a title. James may feel a bigger market would help sell him as a brand. He may simply be ready for a change of scenery.

New York Knicks

Pluses: James loves New York and Madison Square Garden as a stage. If you can make it there, you can make...oh, sorry, that's a song I had stuck in my head. The Knicks have the cap room to potentially add James and, say, Toronto's Chris Bosh.

Minuses: The Knicks roster. If they spend on James and Bosh, the rest of their team will be made up of players making the minimum. That's not a recipe for a championship.

New Jersey Nets

Pluses: Some good young players. A new arena in Brooklyn in the works. Well-heeled new ownership in Russian Mikhail Prokhorov. James' friendship with Jay-Z, a Nets' part owner.

Minuses: It's the Nets, not the Knicks. It's not Manhattan. The Nets aren't close to winning.

Chicago Bulls

Pluses: Point guard Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. James grew up a Michael Jordan fan. He switched his number from 23 to 6 for next year in honor of Jordan.

Minuses: Not the kind of ownership James has enjoyed in Cleveland. Head coach unsettled. Living up to the Jordan legacy would be next to impossible.

Miami Heat

Pluses: The Heat have the flexibility to add another superstar. James could team up with Dwyane Wade, who has already won a title. A Hall of Fame coach, Pat Riley, is already in the organization. Florida is tax friendly for athletes. The weather can't be discounted.

Minuses: NBA rules only allow teams to play with one ball at a time. Who gets it with the game on the line, James or Wade? James is a better distributor of the basketball but James and Wade are too similar to truly complement each other.

Los Angeles Clippers

Pluses: They have cap flexibility. And talent.
Minuses: They're the Clippers. Donald Sterling is still their owner. James would play second fiddle to Kobe Bryant in L.A.

Bud Shaw is a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who has also written for the Philadelphia Daily News, San Diego Union-Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The National. You can read his Plain Dealer columns at Cleveland.com, and read all his mental_floss articles here.

Turn Your LEGO Bricks Into a Drone With the Flybrix Drone Kit

Flyxbrix/FatBrain
Flyxbrix/FatBrain

Now more than ever, it’s important to have a good hobby. Of course, a lot of people—maybe even you—have been obsessed with learning TikTok dances and baking sourdough bread for the last few months, but those hobbies can wear out their welcome pretty fast. So if you or someone you love is looking for something that’s a little more intellectually stimulating, you need to check out the Flybrix LEGO drone kit from Fat Brain Toys.

What is a Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit?

The Flybrix drone kit lets you build your own drones out of LEGO bricks and fly them around your house using your smartphone as a remote control (via Bluetooth). The kit itself comes with absolutely everything you need to start flying almost immediately, including a bag of 56-plus LEGO bricks, a LEGO figure pilot, eight quick-connect motors, eight propellers, a propeller wrench, a pre-programmed Flybrix flight board PCB, a USB data cord, a LiPo battery, and a USB LiPo battery charger. All you’ll have to do is download the Flybrix Configuration Software, the Bluetooth Flight Control App, and access online instructions and tutorials.

Experiment with your own designs.

The Flybrix LEGO drone kit is specifically designed to promote exploration and experimentation. All the components are tough and can totally withstand a few crash landings, so you can build and rebuild your own drones until you come up with the perfect design. Then you can do it all again. Try different motor arrangements, add your own LEGO bricks, experiment with different shapes—this kit is a wannabe engineer’s dream.

For the more advanced STEM learners out there, Flybrix lets you experiment with coding and block-based coding. It uses an arduino-based hackable circuit board, and the Flybrix app has advanced features that let you try your hand at software design.

Who is the Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit for?

Flybrix is a really fun way to introduce a number of core STEM concepts, which makes it ideal for kids—and technically, that’s who it was designed for. But because engineering and coding can get a little complicated, the recommended age for independent experimentation is 13 and up. However, kids younger than 13 can certainly work on Flybrix drones with the help of their parents. In fact, it actually makes a fantastic family hobby.

Ready to start building your own LEGO drones? Click here to order your Flybrix kit today for $198.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

Double Play: The Curious Life and Career of Ozzie Canseco

Otto Gruele, Allsport/Getty Images
Otto Gruele, Allsport/Getty Images

“Jose, we love you! Jose, you suck!” It’s 1992 in Louisville, Kentucky, and a man who bears a striking resemblance to major league home run king Jose Canseco is smashing baseballs out of Triple-A ballparks for the Louisville Redbirds, the minor league sibling of the St. Louis Cardinals.

A screen erected specifically for home runs at Pilot Field in Buffalo, New York, fails to contain one 550-foot drive. The ball goes over the screen and past the highway.

“Good job, Jose!”

Before and after games, the six-foot-two, 220-pound slugger will be asked about dating Madonna (he didn’t), antagonized into fights (he avoids them, mostly), and begged for autographs. When he signs his name, fans appear confused. They tell him to stop joking around. Doesn’t he know he’s Jose Canseco, perpetual All-Star and prolific masher of baseballs? Who ever heard of Ozzie Canseco, Jose’s identical twin, born two minutes earlier to Jose Canseco Sr. and his wife, Barbara? And if they are identical, why is it that Jose was earning millions as a member of the Oakland Athletics while Ozzie only made sporadic appearances in the majors?

Ozzie tried to explain all of these things over and over again. Every time he thought people got the message, he would head back out into the world, hearing his brother’s name. Once, a car veered and tried to run him off the road. When Ozzie hit the shoulder, the other driver laughed, as if it were a joke, and then referred to him as Jose.

 

There are relatively few examples of twins who excelled equally in sports. Ronde and Tiki Barber were both selected in the 1997 NFL Draft and had successful careers; Karyne and Sarah Steben, both accomplished gymnasts, toured with Cirque du Soleil and credited their psychological connection with helping them perform difficult aerial feats.

More often, siblings of star athletes idle in the shadows cast by their high-achieving counterparts.

Hank Aaron’s brother Tommie joined him in professional baseball. Hank hit 755 home runs during his career; Tommie connected with 13. There were three DiMaggio brothers, though it was Joe—the onetime husband of Marilyn Monroe—who stood out both on and off the field. Had any of these men looked identical to their famous brother, it would have compounded the comparisons. It’s unlikely anyone ever tried to run Tommie Aaron off the road.

Ozzie Canseco plays for the Oakland Athletics in a Major League Baseball game
Otto Gruele Jr, Getty Images

Born on July 2, 1964, Osvaldo “Ozzie” Capas Canseco and Jose Canseco would soon be another sports sibling story.

The two were barely a year old when their parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba. Both grew up learning to play "the great American pastime." Jose, an outfielder who could wallop a ball out of sight, was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 1982 straight out of high school. After polishing his skills in the minor leagues for three years, he briefly debuted as a late-season call-up for the Athletics in 1985. His official rookie season came in 1986, when he went on to hit 33 home runs and knock in 117 RBIs, resulting in Rookie of the Year honors.

Ozzie, who had played as much baseball as his brother, decided to take a year for college. Instead of being a power hitter, Ozzie had gravitated toward pitching. The New York Yankees drafted him in 1983. After four largely unimpressive years on the mound in the minor leagues, he was released by the Yankees and picked up by the Oakland Athletics organization in 1986 to further develop his skills.

It amounted to a genetic experiment in sports: Two men, nearly identical in build—Jose was an inch taller and perhaps 10 pounds heavier—who played the same game for the same amount of time. In 1989, the two even suffered the exact same injury to the hamate bone in the hand. Yet it was Jose who became a sensation, earning exponentially increasing millions and stats for the Athletics and the Texas Rangers, while Ozzie struggled to get called up.

The problem, according to Ozzie, was that he had pitched for too long, refining a skill that wouldn’t pay the same dividends as an outfielder and star hitter. All those years pitching put him behind Jose and behind the game. When he was finally called up to the Athletics as an outfielder in 1990, the difference in ability when compared to Jose was obvious. After 20 homers and 67 RBIs with the Huntsville Stars farm team, he managed only a .105 batting average in nine MLB games during his first season, striking out in 10 of his 19 at-bats. Meanwhile, in 1988, Jose became the first MLB player in history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a single season—a feat only three players have replicated since. When Ozzie struck out in his first Athletics game, Jose hit two home runs.

 

Pundits tried to break down Ozzie’s deficiencies. Superficially, he had everything Jose had, including a powerful build that was likely bolstered by steroids. (Jose admitted to using performance-enhancing substances in his 2005 tell-all book, Juiced; Ozzie was arrested for driving in a car that contained vials of steroids during a traffic stop in 2003. Jose later told VICE that Ozzie "used the same type of steroids I used and in equal amounts.") But experts pointed out that Jose was more flexible, with a better range of motion in his swing and a faster sprint. He seemed to be more aggressive during play, too. These were subtle differences, but enough for Jose to make three World Series appearances while Ozzie toiled in the minors.

Ozzie Canseco bats for the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game
Otto Gruele Jr, Getty Images

Dejected, Ozzie headed for Japan to play for the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes to sharpen his game against different kinds of pitches. Playing for the Japanese equivalent of a farm team in Osaka, he quit midway through the season to return to the U.S. minors, joining the Louisville Redbirds, the Cardinals Triple-A team. In 1993, he got a chance to jump on the Cardinals for six uneventful games. When Bernard Gilkey came off the disabled list, Ozzie was bumped back down. In frustration, he briefly quit baseball before signing a contract with the Triple-A arm of the Milwaukee Brewers and, later, the Florida Marlins.

After being released by the Marlins in 1996, he remarked it was the first summer he had not played baseball since he was a kid. While other people may have confused him for Jose, baseball’s management did not.

 

If Ozzie was never quite his brother’s equal on the field, he found parity in other ways. For years, rumors circulated that Ozzie would show up in place of Jose for autograph signings. The two also got in nearly equivalent legal trouble for a 2001 nightclub brawl in Miami Beach that ended in probation and a civil lawsuit against both.

In what was probably their most audacious attempt to fool people, Ozzie reportedly showed up for a 2011 celebrity boxing match claiming he was Jose, who had performed in prizefights against the likes of Danny Bonaduce. Promoter Damon Feldman claimed he had paid Jose $5000 and that he was confused when Ozzie finally removed his shirt. (He lacks the bicep tattoo sported by his brother). Feldman had him escorted out and filed a complaint for breach of contract, winning a default judgment against Jose for the $5000 advance and travel expenses. Feldman later expressed doubt he had ever actually met Jose. (On Twitter, Jose Canseco denied Feldman’s claim that he had sent Ozzie in his place.)

In 2015, Ozzie was named the hitting coach for the Sioux Falls Canaries, a Double-A team in South Dakota. Not long after, he and his brother once again confused onlookers when Ozzie fooled his on-air correspondents into thinking “Jose” had arrived to film a segment for his role as an analyst for an NBC broadcast. It was a bit of levity that may have indicated that the years removed from the field had allowed Ozzie to feel more comfortable—both in his own skin and his brother’s.

It was a long time coming. Speaking to Sports Illustrated in 1994, Ozzie lamented the peculiar reality of resembling his brother in every aspect but the one that mattered to him most. “It’s difficult to explain my existence as Ozzie Canseco on a daily basis,” he said.