From the desk of HHR's resident Knicks fan...
It's over, mercifully a period of hype that made Brett Favre's decision look like a senior prom date request has ended. He's headed to the Miami Heat. As a Knicks fan this disappoints me but I see the positives for LBJ and I see the negatives.
The quick positives: He goes to Miami (been there, it's a nice place), he plays with two other all-stars and friends in Wade and Bosh, and to add the last point, he has help...but help he believes in and help that he got to really have a choice in.
The downsides: Make no mistake this is Wade's team. The Heat play in 'Wade County' and Wade has already helped lead this team to an NBA title. While whatever ensuing titles the Heat win will help validate the career of James, they will also help further vault Wade above James. You can also let the chatter build up about how James couldn't do it on his own and that now he has to play second banana to somebody else.
There were so much information and misinformation out there prior to this announcement that I had no clue what to believe. I have no sources, I was devouring the information just like anyone else. My hope was for the Knicks. I figured the lure of New York, the lure of playing with Stoudemire and possibly Carmelo or Chris Paul, and the lure of bringing back from the dead one of the greatest NBA franchises would be enough. I think only if he had joined the Bulls could he win a title next year. I think every one of these teams is a year away and with that logic, why not join the Knicks and see where the chips fall? As a Knicks fan I can't fault them, they made every effort to put themselves in the right position to get this guy. It's like asking out a girl that you think has everything. You put yourself in what you believe to be the best possible position to get her to say yes and sometimes she's just not into you. And there isn't a thing you can do about it. Maybe somewhere in the recruitment you made a wrong move (having James Dolan own your team, possibly sending Isiah Thomas to Akron), but at the time you felt they were the right moves and it just didn't work. Not to be an apologist for the Knicks but I'm not sure what else they could have done. They got D'Antoni, a Lebron friendly coach, they cleared cap space in amazing fashion, they signed Stoudemire, but I don't think Wade was ever leaving Miami and that was probably a huge domino that triggered everything else.
New York signed Stoudemire and it pumped life back into their pursuit of James. I applaud that move because even without James it makes them relevant. People want to poke holes in Stoudemire and his possibly uninsured knee or eye, but honestly who else was coming to the Knicks? Stoudemire could never play a game for the Knicks and I don't fault that signing. t had to be done. They had money and they had to spend it. They had to show they were serious in getting somebody big to possibly lead to somebody bigger and they did that. Now they trade David Lee in exchange for three talented guys from the Warriors and the beat goes on. I doubt New York is done this off-season and perhaps we are just a few years away from a revival of a Knicks-Heat rivalry that was truly awesome.
When you look at James passing on the Bulls it can only be because of his friendship with Wade and Bosh and perhaps a desire to not follow in Jordan's footsteps. Everybody wants Lebron to be the next Jordan or to have this killer instinct to win titles just like Kobe or to want to lead his own team. People want him to preserve or build this legacy and to show he is a man and do this and do that. The fact is not everybody is wired that way and the guy can do what he wants. How do you fault someone for playing with their friends in a place like Miami? That said the Bulls seemed the most ready made to win a title so it is a bit confusing as to why he doesn't sign in Chicago. Not to be repetitive but I think it came down to him not caring as much as everyone else thinks he should care about leading his own team and improving his own legacy. I think he cares about winning and in his opinion playing with Wade and Bosh were about winning. Through all this buildup it seemed as if James ego would be bigger than any max contract but by watching him go to the Heat and taking less money it at least validates the part about winning. The one hour special and two month buildup still validates the ego part.
The people who can fault him for signing with Miami, that would be the people of Cleveland. There is no need to document the sports history of this town, it has been long and filled with stomach punch after stomach punch. Right before the program begun tonight on ESPN my gut feeling was that Lebron would return to Cleveland because it is a brutal move to abandon your home state on national television. There was never going to be a right way to do this but this TV special was likely the wrong way. Leaving Cleveland should have been like ripping off a band-aid, don't drag it out and keep them with hope. The other teams, the Knicks, the Bulls, you have every right to string these squads along, they knew what they were getting into, they signed up for this. But the folks in Cleveland likely deserve better. I gather the folks in Ohio likely had an idea things were headed south but to have it done so publicly after a long drawn out process had to only make it more brutal. There is a reason they have set his jersey on fire Thursday night, they are truly wounded. There is a reason Cavs owner Dan Gilbert penned an open letter filled with more venom than ten black mambas, they are truly pissed. Nobody in New York or Chicago or LA is torching his jersey and if they are, they just like fire.
I don't know when it will be okay for Lebron to return to Cleveland. Sometimes a superstar can leave a franchise and people can't fault him. Look at Kevin Garnett leaving Minnesota. That man maxed out all the T-Wolves would ever do and was almost loyal to a fault burning up his most productive years in relative obscurity (the t-wolves did make a run at one point). The same can't be said for James. All tolled James had the right to leave. I don't think the Cavs were winning the title with him again and if they make the playoffs without him it will be a small miracle. He has the right to pursue where he believes the best chance to win a crown to be is, Miami or elsewhere, but you owe your hometown team more. Let them know upfront you aren't coming back. Or be upfront and say it's down to you and somebody else and I'm honestly torn. Be upfront about any part of it, give them anything that shows they partnered with you for what they will remember as seven magical years that ended in heartbreak. Give them a heads up for being the place you are from and from the place you say you want to always be from.
At least now it is over. The healing can somehow begin in Cleveland, the Heat can take some guys from the local rec center to fill out their roster, the Bulls can still be very good, the Knicks figure out how to add some more pieces and the start of the NBA season can't come soon enough.