The NBA’s free agency roller coaster took another surprising turn today when LeBron James retired from basketball to play minor league baseball instead.

“Trying to play basketball like Michael Jordan has proved to be impossible, even for me,” said James, a month after his Cavaliers lost in the playoffs to the Celtics, leaving him stuck on zero NBA titles to Jordan’s six. “Maybe I can play baseball like Jordan.”

James will report to the Akron Aeros, the Cleveland Indians Double-A affiliate. In 1994, Jordan quit the Bulls to play right field for the Birmingham Barons, the White Sox Double-A affiliate. He struggled mightily, batting only .202 with more than a quarter of his at-bats resulting in strike outs.

“This is a smart move by LeBron,” Cavs owner Dan Gilbert admits. “He stays in Cleveland to keep our fan base happy, and he doesn’t have to play for the Cavs.”

Aeros skipper Joel Skinner is unsure how James will impact his ballclub, however.

“We don’t have a nucleus of guys like Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah around him,” Skinner said, comparing his team to the Bulls. “King James might not be enough for us to catch Altoona.”

From the June 2010 issue by Rob C. Christiansen. Click here to subscribe today!