Thursday, January 15, 2009

Like The Knicks? Root For The Cavs!

I'm not a huge basketball fan, but my primary affiliation is with the Knicks, just based on who my dad rooted for and the Starter jacket I had in 5th grade. If most of my time living in NYC didn't coincide with the Isaiah Thomas era, I probably would have caught more than one game at MSG. I'd could have been even less of a fan if our gym teacher in high school didn't just roll out six or eight basketballs and do everything but rename our gym class "45 minutes of pick-up games".

I've never followed a full season of Knicks basketball, but if they get LeBron, I'm jumping on the bandwagon before ESPN has the headline up on their homepage.

True Knicks fans (or real fans of any team) would probably take offense to this, and rightfully so. They've suffered through the bad times, and know every bench player's name. They probably know the broadcasters verbal tics and are already intimately familiar with SSOL.

When a team is winning, they become more popular because casual fans become serious ones and also because assholes like me come out of the woodwork. We might not like the sport enough to suffer through a couple bad seasons in a row, but can be enticed into watching or coming to a game if the team is competitive. We might have some real sports loyalties, just not in basketball.

Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni have all but screamed from the rooftops that they are pursuing Mr. James if he is available in the 2010 offseason. They've shed almost every contractual obligation beyond the 2009/10 season except Eddie Curry and Jared Jefferies (along with the possibility of picking up Danilo Galinari's option). They are creating a very tempting void for LeBron and maybe even one other max contract to fill in "The World's Most Famous Arena", home of the league's most valuable franchise.

A void doesn't only exist on the 2010/11 Knicks roster. Despite being founded in 1946, the Knicks have only two championships to their name (1970 & 1973). As a result, they don't really have an all-time "face of the franchise" type of player. Walt Clyde Frasier left in 1977 and Patrick Ewing never won a championship. LeBron is only going to be 26 when he becomes a free agent and if he puts in 6-8 years with the Knicks, I'd give him a 98% chance to be best Knick ever. That's not a bad legacy to leave.

King James has been remarkably diplomatic while being badgered by the questions of what he's planning to do in the summer of '10. He says:
I don't know if it's going to happen. I'm so focused on this season and what we have at task with the Cavs that it's hard for me to even think about that date. But at the same time, you have to stay open-minded if you're a Knicks fan.

But it's going to be a lot of teams that are going to try to strengthen their teams, and there's going to be a lot of free agents out there in 2010, so if you guys want to sleep right now and don't wake up until July 1, 2010, then go ahead, because it's going to be a big day.
LeBron is from Akron, and the Cavs are as close as he can get to a hometown team as far as NBA franchises are concerned. Common knowledge assumes that he could be a brighter star on Broadway or with Jay-Z's Nets if the Atlantic Yards project ever goes through, but how much bigger can LeBron get? He's got a massive Nike sponsorship with incredibly well done commercials (you're gonna want to click that). He's going to make basically the same NBA salary anywhere he goes and he's already in the process of surpassing an aging Kobe as the preeminent star in the league.

I think the single biggest factor in his decision is whether or not he wins a Championship in Cleveland. Just judging by his generosity with the ball (6.6 career APG), and his demeanor in press conferences, I think he's the kind of guy who badly wants to win a title for his city, whose lack of ultimate professional sporting glory stretches back to the Browns' NFL Championship in 1964. There are certainly other factors, but giving the city of Cleveland a Championship would free him of a ton of guilt and allow to to be embraced as a hero instead of jeered as a Quisling on his trips back to town.

Maybe I'm wrong, but wouldn't that at least make it better for everyone involved? It's not like the Knicks are going to win an NBA Title in the next two years...

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