December 17, 2010
Last July, LeBron James(notes) took less money to go play for the Miami Heat with a couple of like-minded friends (and very good basketball players in their own right) who decided to do the same thing.
At the same time, he handled the entire process terribly, he turned off an entire nation, and spurned several cities along the way.
Like Los Angeles, when the Clippers showed up (via train, I presume) without an actual general manager to do the talking. And Chicago, which offered a chance to play alongside what is pretty much the same team that has sprung to third in the East this year, even through injury-plagues affecting both Carlos Boozer(notes), Joakim Noah(notes) and Derrick Rose(notes). Or Cleveland, which based its hopes solely on a (literal) cartoon presentation that kept the little guy laughing.
Or New York. Which never had a chance, but as it is with all things Gotham-y, loved to think that it did.
And now LeBron is back in New York, about a year removed from flirting with the city to an obnoxious degree in Cleveland's lone visit to the city during James' last year as a Cavalier.
With the Knicks at 16-10, more than halving the amount of wins they came through with last year, the city and its tabloid media (notice I didn't say "fans" or "team") are now foaming at the mouth in anticipation of piling on James as he makes his Madison Square Garden debut Friday night as a member of the Miami Heat.
Leading the charge is the typically tactful Marc Berman, of the New York Post:
That will be LeBron's legacy to New Yorkers, even if he wins a couple of titles in the sunny city where New Yorkers retire. Welcome back to New York, LeCon.
"LeCon," y'all. Sheer bloody poetry.
Seriously, guys, if I have to start working with puns on a Marc Berman level just to keep a job, then I've had it. I know things have been dodgy since I developed the Bubonic Plague or whatever the hell it is I have right now, but even a million Kelly Dwyer monkees writing on a million different typewriters can't come up with something as useful, meaningful, and perfect-ful as "LeCon."
New York has its own MVP candidate in first-year Knick Amar'e Stoudemire, and you have to appreciate the way he talked right over any chance at baiting LeBron Thursday:
"The only reason people are talking about LeBron now is because we're playing him," Stoudemire said.
"That's it. As long as we keep winning and have success, that's what the fans want to see. That's the most important thing in New York. LeBron right now is in Miami. We're in New York, so it will be a battle [Friday night]."
That first quote isn't a shot. Stoudemire is right to point out that LeBron's presence, while anticipated, is just another distraction in what has truly been a turnaround year for his new team. New York is only talking about LeBron because the Knicks, possibly the story of the year thus far (and I'm a Chicagoan), are playing LeBron's Heat.
LeBron's return to one of the places he spurned isn't the story. New York is the story, despite what a lot of people who get paid to write about stories in New York will tell you.