Handicapping LeBron's free agency 

June, 29, 2010

All this talk about LeBron James and where he will go is fascinating. At its core, do you know what the speculation is?


From my ESPN The Magazine buddies Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard to the guy I see at my local swimming pool who can't stop talking to me about it, everyone is doing the same thing professional bettors do when they make their picks: reading everything possible, talking to experts and running scenarios. In other words, they're gathering information. They're handicapping.

The LeBron-watching world has been in a particular tizzy this week, thanks to that New York Times article that quoted a league exec saying King James to Chicago was a done deal. The market in the offshore sports books for where LeBron will go became volatile, with different teams leading the way seemingly every minute, that popular bookmaker Bodog stopped taking bets on the sweepstakes completely.

Bodog bookmaker Richard Gardner e-mailed me a statement that read, in part, "It is not worth the risk as a book manager to throw something like this up. … Calculating odds on something like this is like trying to run live odds on the 100[-meter] dash at the Olympic games and is definitely one of the toughest things I have had to deal with in my years in bookmaking."

Before any of this happened, I had been looking for ways to accurately predict LeBron's final destination. After all, if this is nothing more than handicapping, there should be a wise guy system for it, because no one is better at reading tea leaves than sharps. I decided to construct an algorithm using bettor's logic and math.

Now how do I do that?