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Friday, June 25, 2010
Updated: July 12, 3:50 AM ET
Artists want LeBron to follow the music

By Mary Buckheit
Special to ESPN.com

By the time the June 30 contract option deadline strikes, countless God-fearing NBA fans will have waged persuasive words on behalf of their cities' unrivaled capacity to adopt LeBron James.

Lebron James and Jay-Z
While Jay-Z remains quiet, musically anyway, about the subject, many other artists are trying to coax LeBron James to their cities.

In these days of seismic solicitation leading up to the big decision, billboards wheedle LeBron with 6-foot font, New York City's mayor courts King James via video Bible verse, and even the president of the United States, Barack Obama, has weighed in with his oval opinion.

No one is holding back; but even if LeBron were listening to everybody's two cents, it would be impossible to make sense of all the noise.

Hans Christian Andersen once said, "Where words fail, music speaks." And that's why the beat of a melodic movement is cutting through the static surrounding our favorite 25-year-old two-time defending MVP. In an effort to up their respective team's curb appeal, artists of all musical abilities have chimed in with convincing compositions beseeching The King.

In Ohio, Gov. Ted Strickland joined Sen. Sherrod Brown and other Buckeye State celebrities for the singing of "Please Stay LeBron," performed as a parody of the 1985 charity music video single, "We Are The World."

Since that ballad hit the intrawebs, a veritable anthology of anthems has poured out from home computers in every hopeful metropolis, each imploring LeBron to make the move to their ZIP code (i.e. Dayeezy's "LeBron To Chicago").

One evening, in his Dallas home, Ben Rogers wrote and recorded the "Bron Bron Song" on the Mac in his kitchen. The track now auto-plays on the website LeBronToTheMavs.com.

Rogers, who describes himself as "a fat, 40-year-old from the 'burbs of Dallas," is actually the host of ESPN Radio's Ben & Skin Show, but Rogers says his radio career burgeoned only after he was finally able to admit to himself that he was "a failed white rapper."

"In my younger days, I absolutely fell in love with rap music -- so much so that I actually dropped out of college, trying to make it as a big-time rap star," Rogers says. "Of course I failed miserably and proved my parents right. Eventually, I went back to school, got a degree, and found this path, but all I ever really wanted to do was make music."

Rogers says the original inspiration for the "Bron Bron Song" sprung from ESPN Radio's afternoon drive-time host, Randy Galloway, the first guy at the Dallas station to hear Cleveland's ode to LeBron.

When a segment on The Galloway Show sizzled with talk of LeBron ballads, the host instinctively told his listeners that his lyrical cohort, Ben Rogers, could have a Mavericks song for them by Monday morning. Galloway told Rogers about his promise on that Friday night, and less than 48 hours later, Rogers made good on it.

After accepting the challenge, Rogers cruised the iTunes library and stumbled upon the instrumental version of One Republic's "All The Right Moves," to which he subsequently penned his opus. "The lyrics were easy to come up with," Rogers says. "I just wrote down all the stuff we had been hollering about on the radio all day, then I sang the song into the computer in my kitchen while my wife was laughing at me and watching TV in the next room."

Rogers sent his song to a local recording engineer for the finishing touch and the rest is Web wildfire history.

The Choice Is Yours
"The Choice Is Yours" mix tape offers three songs featuring various hip-hop artists.

"Now you can't go to the mall or walk down a street in Dallas without hearing someone humming the tune; it's nutty!"

While Rogers is no pro, he knows that the secret to any successful song is a catchy hook. "They may not remember a word of the verse but if your chorus is catchy, they'll be singing it all day long."

As his kitchen recording goes viral, Rogers recognizes the sardonic symphony playing out before his own ears: "I spent 15 years trying to be discovered in rap music and failed miserably at every turn. Then I write down some 'lyrics' about LeBron, set them to a song that's not mine, and the thing explodes overnight. I can certainly laugh at the irony of this whole thing."

While Rogers can't call the song his very own, his long road to musical relevance seems vindicated in the moment. "I'm a very proud papa. I don't take myself too seriously, so it's all been really gratifying. And of course, if LeBron comes to the Mavs, you'd have to say that it's 100 percent without question because of my catchy song."

As Rogers waits for LeBron's decision, he delights in the music that Bron's blockbuster scenario has inspired. Rogers says listeners have been e-mailing their renditions into the radio station and the Dallas String Quartet has since remixed his version. "There's no end in sight to what people will do before D-day," Rogers says. "This story is bigger than sports; this is Main Street. There is spectacular human interest in a young phenom -- arguably the best player of the game -- coming to your market. There is so much emotion to draw from in this story and music only makes those emotions more meaningful."

Corporate sponsors crank up the volume, raise the sweepstakes

It didn't take long for the symphonic stakes surrounding LeBron to be raised by corporate synergy. On Memorial Day weekend, Vitamin Water and famed producer Don Cannon released "The Choice Is Yours," a three-song mix tape where rappers hailing from each of this summer's most hopeful free-agent destinations spit their pointed petitions toward The King.

Reputable representatives of rap from New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas and Los Angeles all lined up in hopes of making music to LeBron's lobes. Chris Lighty, a maverick of the music business and CEO of Brand Asset Group, explained how the mix tape came to fruition: "Vitamin Water called me up and said they wanted to do something around the thought that we were all thinking: 'Where is LeBron James gonna go?' From there it was just a matter of getting guys into the studio."

Lighty's job is to develop product endorsement opportunities and integrated marketing campaigns with artists for an assortment of Fortune 500 companies. After the prompt from Vitamin Water, he made a phone call to the artist in each city whom he deemed best fit to battle for LeBron. Lighty swiftly assembled his dream team and manufactured a fresh and free-to-download 3-track that effectively encapsulates the vibe of this summer's free-agent market.

"It was a perfect fit for everybody," Lighty describes. "Jadakiss is of course New York-based and hails from Yonkers -- we're very lucky to have a great relationship with him. Uncle Murda, aka U.M., is from Brooklyn so he's rooting for the Knicks and the Nets. Nipsey [Hu$$le] is thought of as one of the most promising rappers on the rise from Los Angeles, Calif. Brisco is a highly sought-after star from Miami, Fla., that people are really keeping their eyes on. Mikey Rocks is from Chicago and super talented. Finally, we have Chip Tha Ripper who is one of the few artists from Cleveland; and he was on point as he has really fought to put Cleveland on the map in the same way LeBron has put Cleveland on the map."

Lighty & Co. asked the artists to speak of LeBron's choice from a third-person or first-person perspective. He stated that while artists were moderately toned down to meet the needs of the audience, each individual was given free creative license and fanatically took the reins. "We asked each artist right up front if they had an opinion on the LeBron situation and all these guys gladly chipped in and came through with their own expression straight from their hometown."

Each of the three tracks, "Who's That," "Come On Over" and the first radio single, "I Am The Man," is devoted entirely to extolling the virtues of each city, ripe for LeBron's picking, and while mix tapes inherently take some time to catch on, "The Choice Is Yours" was quick to warrant stout Internet chatter and download proliferation. Radio stations and media outlets have given "The Choice Is Yours" significant airtime, not only because it speaks to a trending topic, but also because of the record's overall quality and star power.

Cannon, the renowned Atlanta-based producer who has minted such stars at Young Jeezy, 50 Cent, Ludacris, Asher Roth, The Cool Kids and Fabolous, served as host for the Vitamin Water mix tape. Lighty jokingly suggests Cannon's emphatic support of the project could be attributed to the glimmer of hope he is holding out for the Hawks to get LBJ. "Cannon is counting on the long shot," Lighty said with a laugh. "He thinks that for some strange reason, LeBron will go to Atlanta. But you know what? LeBron has the choice to do just that if he wants to, and everyone has the ability to voice their opinion, that's why it's called 'The Choice Is Yours.' We definitely don't want to stifle anybody's opinion and everybody is really well-represented on this project."

It can't hurt to try. After all, you never know who might hear it.

"I'm sure LeBron's heard the tracks because a member of his camp was in the studio with us so I'm sure he heard it," Lighty said. "He didn't participate while we were making it, or anything like that, obviously. We didn't want to have him in any violation of any rules, but I'm quite sure he's heard the music."

While many are busy voicing their venerable opinions, one significant point of view they may be choosing to ignore is basketball godfather Sonny Vaccaro's. As outlined by the New York Post in a story last month, author Marc Berman wrote that according to Vaccaro, Jay-Z -- the "Mike Jordan of mike recordin' " -- will be the single most significant influence on LeBron's decision. (Hova, a close friend of LeBron's, also happens to have a 1.5 percent piece of the soon-to-be-Brooklyn Nets.)

But Lighty, also a homegrown New Yorker, has his own opinion. "Just being fan of basketball you know I would love for LeBron to come to New York. Let's get LeBron and Dwyane Wade and we're off to the races. That's my choice. But hey, if LeBron thinks he could do great things in Brooklyn with Jay-Z, I'm sure that would be great for the city also. Anywhere LeBron goes it's going to be great for that market, and great for the league, and obviously, great for LeBron himself. Ultimately, it's his choice and he deserves it. He is a force of nature that everyone wants to be a part of."

So much so that, across the nation, fans are writing LeBron songs and shouting them from virtual rooftops.

Lighty says if he had the secret formula for making the perfect song for sports fans and great music minds alike, he'd be sitting on an island somewhere, doling out advice for lots of money, but in the meanwhile, he's banking on LeBron to make him a hit. "Everyone is so enamored with LeBron. You can't lose with LeBron James. He has handled himself with such charisma and character and he's come up in a way that everyone is really rooting for him to win. People are able to look up to him because he's held himself to a higher standard than most. Anyone would want LeBron to come to their town and help them win. It's an honest emotion, because he's such an immense talent."

Lighty expects fans' emotional appeals to continue until the moment LeBron's decision is finally announced: "People know LeBron has a choice to make and until he does, they will continue to voice their feelings about it."

From their lips to God's ears.

Mary Buckheit is a freelance writer based in San Diego. She can be reached at marybuckheit@hotmail.com.