For those who aren’t in the know, LeBron is the most coveted free agent in the game today. And, no less than six teams (including his Cleveland Cavaliers) are vying for his attention and commitment to sign a long term contract. Just in the New York market alone, the Knicks (my team) and Nets have created a three ring circus atmosphere, by dangling the richest of jewels and the swankiest of celebrities and VIPs to influence “the King’s” decision. Although both teams are simply God awful, it simply is unacceptable to New York fans (including this blogger) that the Knicks have continued to lose for an entire decade. The hope (maybe prayer) is that this human highlight film can turn our team’s miserable fortunes around.
In a weird way, I feel like I am watching a riveting adventure movie (with bag of popcorn in hand), just waiting to see what the ending will be. Each day (or actually every few hours) something new transpires as one team decides to raise the stakes. It leaves you wondering if there is really anything left to offer. Just in the past month, we’ve watched Knicks court side fan Spike Lee go head to head with Nets’ owner Jay Z to win “the King’s” love. Spike did all he could by creating personalized commercials to woo LeBron into the city that never sleeps. While Jay Z simply turned on his charm by showing His Highness that nothing can compare to spending quality time with the hippest music stars in the business (Jay Z and Beyonce, of course) across the Hudson.
Not wanting to be out maneuvered by their Jersey counterparts, none other than Knick fan Billy Joel offered up his own rendition of a love ballad to “the King,” all while he went on a personal tour of Joel’s Greenwich Village Townhouse. (Yes, it was suggested to James that this colossal, four story home could be his with a wink, a handshake and a signature.) And, in a reversal of territories, Tony Soprano traded in his Northern New Jersey Italian roots to come back to New York and stand behind his Knickerbockers as well. Yes, James Gandolfini upped the ante significantly by creating a new open ended Sopranos last episode for “the King” (hearing that this was LeBron’s favorite HBO series) in which King James could actually become a character in the final plot. Wow!
It didn’t end there. Both the Knicks and Nets fired their biggest guns next. Cablevision (and Knicks owner) CEO Jim Dolan flew out to meet LeBron twice to convince him why he can turn the woeful Knicks into perennial winners. At the same time, the newly minted Nets ownership/management duo of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and his always smiling celebrity coach Avery Johnson brought LeBron to Newark (where their new arena is). He was then promptly handed the keys to this lovely port city…
All of this continues to transpire while these teams and five others diligently woo a couple of other highly sought after perennial all-star free agents as well (including Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire). The Knicks, Nets, Heat and Chicago Bulls have opened up enough salary cap room to sign two mega stars. This strategy is key for a bad team (like the Knicks) because it shows “The King” and the other superstars that the franchise won’t live or die based on the effectiveness of one great player. And today, it actually looks as though the Knicks signed Amare Stoudemire first.
The irony of this entire manifestation is that most of the teams in the LeBron ‘hunt’ would gladly mortgage their franchise’s future, and, if need be, build their team solely around him if that’s what it takes. Yet, history shows us that one mega superstar alone cannot bring his city a championship ring. Cleveland (LeBron’s current team) is the best example of that. To say the team is/was “LeBron-centric” is an understatement. That system has never had any other stars. And everything, from the team’s marketing, to who the media focus on, to how the Cavaliers are positioned, revolves completely around LeBron. There’s no doubt that if he leaves, Cleveland will lose just about everything it built and that means it will end up in the NBA toilet for a long time. That’s the exact opposite of what the Boston Celtics created three years ago when they were fortunate enough to trade for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, allowing them to build a core nucleus of four great players to win with. The same philosophy holds true for Kobe’s Lakers, as well as Michael Jordan’s Bulls of the 90s.
This has to be an incredible ego rush for LeBron James. He isn’t just the king of basketball, but is treated like actual royalty from the golden ages. Personally, I think that all of this is just so over the top and plain silly. But more importantly, I’m very skeptical that any team will reach the Promised Land with a king that is placed head and shoulders above teammates (who in this scenario will probably feel more like peasants than lords).