February 22, 2010

King James Not Coming to New York Any Time Soon

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Remember when you were a kid and all you wanted for your birthday was a Super Nintendo game system. Okay, maybe not. Perhaps you begged and pleaded for the new G.I. Joe action figure, Patti the Platypus beanie baby or My Little Pony. I don’t judge.

Remember when you ripped the paper off of that first present only to realize you got some new socks and underwear. Thanks grandma. Suddenly, uncontrollable anxiety and fear begins to swell in the pit of your stomach. You quickly eye the present wrapped in a tiny box from your parents and its dimensions do not match the shape or size of what you harassed everyone about for the past three months.

Remember the sudden rush of anger and disappointment after months of anticipation? No? Well, get used to it NBA fans because LeBron James is not coming to your team. Sorry. He’s not.

As we crawl closer to the July 1, 2010 start of the NBA free agent signing period, your wrapped gift might resemble King James, but please listen to me on this one. It’s not! It might be a fine toy in itself. You might receive a double-double machine in Chris Bosh. You might land four-time All-Star Joe Johnson, but don’t kid yourself. If LeBron James is the Tickle Me Elmo of this free agent pool, simply put, Bosh and Johnson are the Tickle Me Bert and Ernie. Anyone else besides LeBron is merely a poor substitute that leaves something to be desired.

I used to be an avid professional basketball fan. I still watch the playoffs and the occasional regular season game if it merits any interest. If I had to summarize my shortened attention span for the sport in three words or less, it would be the following: New York Knicks. Originally, it was going to be a two-word zinger and I was going to say “Isiah Thomas,” but you catch my drift.

Fortunately, the villain, who has hammered the nails into the Knicks’ coffin the past several seasons, has been banished. Isiah negligently exchanged draft picks as if they were Star Wars trading cards. I guarantee you he still has two New York draft picks in his back pocket for a rainy day.

I pretend I am a long-suffering Knicks fan, but I am not. I gave up on the team when Patrick Ewing was traded. It just was not New York basketball if No. 33 was not sweating all over the court and opposing players. Gross.

The truth is there are several large market franchises frantically clearing cap space in an attempt to lure the Akron Hammer away from the Cavaliers this off season. Sure, some teams might be doing so in order to land several other marquee free agents, but the crown jewel is King James. He brings automatic respectability to any club he joins.

But, why your team? What makes you think LeBron would leave his hometown of Cleveland? Conventional wisdom suggests if the Cavs win the NBA Finals this year, he will stay. If they don’t, he might ink a three-year deal and test the free agent waters again if he still has not won any championship hardware.

Possible suitors include New York and New Jersey. There has been speculation that the Knicks’ incompetent owner, James Dolan, who also serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Cablevision, might offer James his own television channel to circumvent the NBA salary cap restrictions. If LeBron decides to remain in Cleveland for another three years, the Nets will have completed their new arena in Brooklyn, another key selling point in the equation. Also, don’t forget King James is tight with Jay-Z, a minority owner of the Nets.

With Michael and Kobe, it was evident that amassing championship rings was of paramount importance. With LeBron … not so much. James appears to be driven to grow the King James brand into a billion dollar industry and supplant some fallen golf icon as the world’s foremost recognizable athlete. For if it was truly about the rings, the Lakers and Celtics always have the mid-level cap exception to offer.

I have read and heard many accounts from sports reporters, who suggest this will be one of the most extravagant courtships in the history of sports. Essentially, all of these reports make some hackneyed reference to LeBron as the pretty girl at the bar and all of the owners are trying to buy her a drink. Unfortunately, you cannot reduce the wooing of King James to such a menial cliché. That’s right, I said “wooing.”

LeBron is not some girl you bring home for a one-night stand. Rather, he is a delicate orchid that must be cultivated over time. He requires attention and effort in order to blossom.

Jack did not just drag Rose back to his bunk bed on the Titanic. No, he takes her to dinner, dances with her and holds her up on the front of the ship or something like that.

The point is the Knicks, Nets or any other franchise that seeks the services of King James must dance the dance. Take LeBron to dinner, show him the town or hold him aloft the damn Titanic for all I care. Just get the job done.

In the end, I am afraid LeBron might not be convinced. I’m afraid he will choose what is safe and familiar over something new and challenging. Don’t forget two years into that new three-year contract we will be going through this dog and pony show again. And hey, speaking of ponies, I might not land LeBron, but I will always cherish My Little Pony.

Original Author: Matthew Manacher