We do not lack for civic self-esteem here in New York City. Our obstacle-course avenues are better than your clean, well-lit thoroughfares. Our $5.75 slices of pizza are better than your $5.75 small pie/soda/chips lunch combos. We might not have a locally situated ultragorge or a granite-carved honorarium to the founding fathers, but if we did they would kick the snot out of the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore.
So the idea that LeBron James would choose any other place to spend the prime of his basketball life is inconceivable to us. It's as beyond reason as a five-time-champion hunkthrob shortstop choosing to spend his offseasons down in Tampa, or as cognitively dissonant as the absence of an NFL team within the city's immediate borders. Oh, wait.
|New York basketball fans aren't obsessed with LeBron James, are they? (Getty Images)|
Only three legit pieces of an eight-man rotation are in place (and one might have to go if the Knicks plan on signing two big-dollar free agents). The coach hasn't yet familiarized himself with the notion of "defense." The owner has an uncanny knack for sticking his hand in the wood chipper -- by hiring and then standing beside Isiah Thomas, by muting critical-minded broadcasters and sending goons to monitor all media interactions, by not settling the Anucha Browne Sanders sexual-harassment case before it exploded into a franchise-sliming embarrassment, etc.
As difficult as it is to imagine that LeBron will ignore those considerations, let's assume he does. Even then, however, the sole argument that most folks in these parts are pinning their hopes on -- that LeBron wants to avail himself of the marketing opportunities that come with New York megastardom -- doesn't hold up. Spending the first seven years of his pro basketball life in Cleveland hasn't seemed to hurt him in that regard. He has been as omnipresent as the sun.
So unless LeBron wants his own cable network (LBTV?) or a guarantee that he will be able to locate authentic hummus at 4 a.m. on a snowy Monday, he ain't coming to New York. Thus as both a community service and a form of self-therapy, I pass along these tips on how my fellow New Yorkers and I can preserve our senses of pride, entitlement and sports-world primacy under the five following LeBron-goes-to-a-place-that-isn't-here scenarios.
The Easy Pill To Swallow (LeBron stays home in Cleveland): We would have no problem rationalizing this one. Blood runs thicker than water, especially in a city where the river has been set aflame in the not-too-distant past.
So LeBron wants to keep hanging with his hangers-on in Akron? No problem. I wouldn't stray too far from my cousin Gabe, either. We'll do just fine reassembling the 2004-05 Suns of Amar'e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson, but with Toney Douglas subbing for Steve Nash and Wilson Chandler in the Shawn Marion role. Welcome back to the 39-win club, Knicks fans!
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The Throat Punch (LeBron goes to Chicago): We still haven't gotten over the reality that the grunt-and-grind Knicks of Ewing, Oakley and Mason couldn't get past Michael Jordan. Thus if LeBron rejects New York for Chicago, this will intensify our single sports-related inferiority complex.
We'll realize on some level that Chicago is the best destination for him, even more so if he brings Chris Bosh with him, but we'll also wonder what the Windy City has that we don't (hint: it rhymes with Merrick Toes). In that case, the only response would be to dig deep into our bag of rhetorical bluster and rip on the Cubs. They haven't won a title since 1827, you know.
The Weinerdog Kid Next Door Gets The Girl (LeBron signs with the Nets): Even as the Nets long ago surpassed the Knicks as the best team in the region -- that 12-win 2009-2010 notwithstanding -- we still feel superior to their fans. Why? They're from New Jersey (says the guy who grew up in New Jersey).
If the Netsies somehow entice LeBron to play for them, though, this changes immediately. The entire region has already been charmed by the team's new majority owner -- Mikhail Prokhorov, a gargantuan Russian oligarch who globe-hops with an entourage of guys that look like Bond villains. The team has a talented young core and the owner has an abundant supply of oversize novelty checks. To reduce this to its most basic essence: talent + money = good.
Apparently LeBron BFF Jay-Z, who owns slightly more of the Nets than you or I do, will play a big role in his courtship. If somehow he convinces LeBron to sign on for two seasons of itinerancy -- they'll play in Newark while waiting for their new Brooklyn home to get built -- the Nets will own NYC by 2013.
The Pastel Putsch (LeBron heads south to Miami): This one would hurt less from a competitive perspective than from a we-hate-our-ex one, in that the Heat remain Pat Riley's team. We loved Pat, up until the moment he resigned his Knicks post by fax (from a cruise ship, it is rumored, during a performance of "The Carnival Players Present: The Songs of Richard Marx"). We still regard him as a leadership-buzzword-spouting Benedict Arnold.
Thus there would be little solace to be found if LeBron joins fellow secret-free-agent-summit participant Dwyane Wade in Miami, other than the spectacle of watching two alpha dogs gnawing on the same bone during crunch time. I suppose we could always root for Riley to slip on his own grease. Depressing.
The Insane Clown Option (LeBron reinvents the Clippers): The beauty of this scenario is that it would defy rationalization. Don't get me wrong -- Los Angeles is sunny and nice and all, but joining the city's second-class hoops concern would be an unseemly option for a guy who regards himself as basketball royalty. It would be like Mariano Rivera on the Mets.
Hence LeBron-to-L.A. would cut as deep into the New York psyche as one of our hockey players -- you know, that guy, the one with the teeth -- abandoning our team that plays hockey for another team that also plays hockey. We wouldn't even waste energy on a shrug. So if you don't come here, LeBron, please go to the Clippers. Really. You could totally own that town.