Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Empire State of Mind? Not LeBron

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - Time for a confession.

I'm a card-carrying member of "The Evil Empire." Reggie Jackson brought me over to the dark side in the late 1970s, and I never left.

Even when the New York Yankees were playing in front of 20,000 a night in the Bronx while trotting out names like Tim Leary, Tom Brookens and Alvaro Espinoza, I stayed steadfast. I must admit I was as giddy as a schoolgirl when the team captured World Series No. 27 at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies
last October.

The point of this little admission?

I understand the arrogance of the New York fan.

The "Big Apple" is the greatest city in the world and Sinatra was right, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. However, that doesn't mean everyone in the world wants to deal with 8 million people with Type-A personalities on a daily basis.

New Yorkers just don't understand why someone would prefer the laid back culture on the left coast, the family friendly suburbs of the Midwest or the party atmosphere in South Beach. To them, Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" is on a never-ending loop, Gotham is the center of the universe and anyone that says
otherwise is a country bumpkin and not worthy of the liberal elite.

That's why so many Knicks fans were on board when their beloved team tanked two full seasons as they kept their eyes on the real prize -- the 2010 free agency period and LeBron Jones.

Every time James would wear a Yankees cap, the basketball fans in NYC flashed that cocky smile, knowing their city was the only one that could possibly give the game's biggest star everything he wanted.

Problem is, they were wrong and as the big day approaches, it seems less and less likely that LeBron will choose New York.

Already knocked for not leading the Cavaliers to a championship, it looks like James is seriously reconsidering the merits of defecting to a far less talented team that spent two years gutting its roster to acquire him.

In fact, the rumors around James, which have sped up to a breakneck pace as July 1 approaches, have been highlighted by the absence of the Knicks.

ESPN reported that a scale-downed version of the much-ballyhooed "free-agent summit" that was originally scheduled earlier this offseason has indeed taken place, with Dwyane Wade trying to convince his buddies, James and Chris Bosh, to join him in Miami as the so-called 'Holy Trinity' with Pat Riley as coach.

James was reportedly intrigued with forming a star-studded trio but refused to commit to leaving his hometown Cavs, and still finds the Chicago situation, where he would be playing with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and at least one other big time free agent, appealing.

I'm not saying New York is out of it but James has taken full advantage of the NBA marketing machine and is already the biggest sports star in the world.

He simply doesn't need New York.

What he needs is competent teammates that can help him fulfill a basketball legacy that is currently lacking a championship.

I still expect the Knicks to roll out a New York-centric recruiting pitch heavy on movie and recording stars to not only woo LeBron, but also Bosh and the rest of the free agent class, when the team officially begins shopping just after midnight on Thursday.

Problem is, when the object of your affections is a bigger star than all the standbys you have waiting to tell him how great New York is, how much of an effect could it possibly have?

Most average New Yorkers are caught up in their own little world and will likely be blindsided when James finally makes his decision, oblivious to the fact that other cities were even in play.

To them, I can only say enjoy Joe Johnson.

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