Good Morning NY!
In terms of LeBron coming to New York, nothing’s changed.
It was always going to be a sell for the Knicks, for Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni. They started crafting their pitch for LeBron James two seasons ago. Here’s a snippet of what they’ll say:
LeBron, we don’t have much to offer you on paper, but we have a vision. An extravagant dream only a man of your stature can run with and make reality. New York can be yours, like no other athlete, celebrity or politician has ever owned this city. A ring here can do more for your career, both on and off the court, than any city can. There is no arena on this planet like Madison Square Garden, which we’re renovating very soon by the way. The A-list celebrities will want your picture, the businesses will want your promotional touch and the fans will love you. They already love you, and that’s not something easy for them to do. Imagine your name over the Garden PA system. Imagine the crowd chanting “D-Fense” to the organ, as you lock down your opponent. Smell it. Breathe it. This is your one chance to own New York, to shape it however you please. The city is yours.
Of course, that’s all they can offer, hopes and dreams. Walsh can probably sell James on this. He knows LeBusiness–becoming a global icon, amassing wealth like Jay-Z of the rap game or Warren Buffet of the Street, is one of two priorities. The other? LeBasketball–winning championships. James is smart enough to know his legacy without a ring is unacceptable. Nobody wants him to be a Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing or Reggie Miller: ring-less Hall of Famers who heap pity praise and endless conversations of championships not being everything. This can’t be James.
The only question is, after getting unceremoniously bounced by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, what’s priority number one? The media scrutiny will never be as suffocating or relenting as it is now, so which direction does James turn? Does the quest for a championship banner outweigh his individual aspirations?
If it’s LeBasketball his best bet is the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat. Both have young, talented squads with a bona-fide superstar to play second fiddle. Both have cap room to make moves. Both organizations will hand James the keys to management hires and player acquisitions. A Derrick Rose and James pairing could work in the right offensive scheme. A Dwyane Wade and James pairing is downright mouth watering. Or he could simply stay in Cleveland.
If it’s LeBusiness, his individual trek for wealth, brand name and global outreach, James can conceivably accomplish it whatever market he’s in. New York needs him more than he needs it. Look at his exposure in Cleveland, Ohio and how he took it global. The Knicks will argue he can increase this tenfold, with a New York across his jersey. The New Jersey (Brooklyn) Nets will bring to the table the same New York arena, Jay-Z, Mikhail Prokhorov, cap space and potentially John Wall.
The Knicks don’t have the upper hand in either situation. With just Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Toney Douglas and Eddy Curry under contract, there are numerous gaps that need to be plugged, all the while without a complimentary sidekick. Yes, there is room to sign two max free agents. James and Bosh/Amare/Boozer/Wade/Joe Johnson. But this doesn’t happen until James makes his decision first. You don’t offer a max contract to Chris Bosh, and then hope for James.
So then why have the talking heads and beat writers professed New York as a major destination? Typical media hype going into warp speed? Probably.
Some Knicks fans rejoiced when the Celtics pounded his ego and spirit into the ground last week. Before the Playoffs started, Cleveland was cruising and James had his second MVP for Akron. It was all part of the plan, the business plan. LeBusiness before LeBasketball. Presumably, the Cavs would coast until they faced the Orlando Magic, where then he’d show the world his basketball greatness. It was smooth sailing that worried the Knicks. Then Boston happened and everything turned upside down. Knicks fanatics were quick to cite James inability to accomplish a ring in Cleveland, forcing his hand to leave for the one and only New York. Perhaps this might be true if LeBusiness steers his career, as it seems to have been for the past couple of seasons. But after this loss, it should become completely about LeBasketball.
There is a legacy he must consider, one that people want to look back on with champagne drenched championship celebrations in his eyes, not simply endorsements and a CEO on his business card. His basketball talent and accomplishments drove him in his early years and as he became more dominant to the point of choking the NBA with his 6-8 frame, basketball might have taken a backseat. Despite putting up statistically his best line of his career this season, one Playoff series is what inaccurately defines his career right now. James has always been able to have LeBasketball and LeBusiness. It can’t be that way from now on. One priority has to step aside for the other to reach its full potential.
And if this happens, the Knicks have no amount of cap space or current roster strength to entice James on board. Just hopes and dreams.
Knickled & Dimed List