It was Chad Ford who kickstarted the LeBron-to-Chicago talk, and now, a month-and-a-half later, as we career toward LeDefcon 1, it is Chad Ford who brings the conversation to its natural endpoint: quoting a waiter in a Chicago steakhouse.
This comes toward the end of his appearance on Bill Simmons's podcast, near the 39-minute mark of Part 2. Here's Ford:
Michael Jordan, after games in Chicago, would go down to Gibsons Steakhouse on Rush Street, and he had a particular table that he would sit [at] in the back, and he would smoke cigars, and he would eat, and he had his own waiter and everything else. ... When LeBron had heard that story — when he's in Chicago, he goes to Gibsons, sits at the same table, has the same waiter. ... When I was [at] the draft camp in Chicago, I went to Gibsons, and I heard this story from I think a pretty good source. So I started asking around: "Who was Michael Jordan's waiter?" And I found him, and I came to ask him, "Whaddya think?" Because this guy was apparently a confidant to Jordan. Jordan knew him well. ... I said: "Whaddya think about LeBron. Is he coming to Chicago?" He said, "He's coming to Chicago. He already told me to reserve his table." So a waiter is going to scoop the story.
He tells this story with tongue in cheek, or at least what passes for it in Chad Ford's world. But I see no reason for this particular waiter to have any less insight into LeBron's intentions than, say, Stephen A. Smith. (How does LeBron convey that he's "leaning" one way or another, anyway? Does he keep up an ongoing dialogue with his associates and apprise them of every tiny recalibration, the way the rest of us slobs do when we eat at restaurants? "Hmm, I'm leaning toward the creamed spinach right now, but the lettuce wedge is looking pretty good, too"?) There is a very strong possibility that no one knows anything at all. Not Chad Ford. Not Stephen A. Not whichever executive said "done deal" to The New York Times and caused half of Chicago to adjust in its seat and cross its legs. There is also a very strong possibility that all these anonymous sources we keep hearing from are people with a vested interest not just in where LeBron lands, but in how the rest of the free-agency period plays out, and perhaps by spreading idle gossip about the former they can possibly influence the latter. Who the hell knows? At this point, I'll take the waiter's word against anyone else's. So far as I know, he's never taken it upon himself to serve up steaming heaps of well-cooked bullshit.