NYC "Greatest Stage" for LeBron? Not Anymore

This story was written by CBSSports.com national columnist Mike Freeman


Recently the mayor of New York, the always deliciously bumptious Michael Bloomberg, got on his hands and knees and begged for Lebron James to join the Knicks.

Smooch, smooch, smooch went Bloomberg. Puckered lips. Applied pressure. Radar locked. Then planted a big one right on James' booty.

You would think Bloomberg has other pressing issues besides trying to lure James, who is, after all, only a basketball player. There was an attempted terrorist attack in Times Square. New York is dealing with a frightening budget crisis as dozens of firehouses and libraries face closures. The city is nervous, strapped and looking for leadership.

Watching a billionaire weep for the services of a millionaire at a time when so many people in New York are jobless is bad enough.

Then Bloomberg said something almost as ridiculous.

"Rumors are that both the Knicks and the Nets would like to get him. I would never take sides on that, but I think it would be great for New York if he would come here," Bloomberg said of James during his weekly show on WOR Radio.

"If asked, if he calls me and says 'What's it like to live in New York?' I'll give him a big sales pitch for New York," Bloomberg said. "I love living in New York, my kids love living in New York, I think LeBron James would love living in New York and it is the world's greatest stage."

No, it's not, at least not for basketball. It hasn't been "the world's greatest stage" for hoops in a long, long time.

The biggest fallacy in the entire James free-agent saga remains that New York is basketball Mecca and James won't be able to resist its lure.

Professional and college basketball in New York have been irrelevant for years. The playground game is alive and well but the Knicks and St. John's -- the heartbeat of hoops here -- remain abysmal failures. It has been that way for some time.

New York is the most overrated basketball town in the country and its relevance is dwarfed by Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago. The Occam's razorness of it all is that if James wants to win, New York should be the last place he picks when becoming a free agent this summer. This is, after all, the franchise that released Isiah Thomas from the douche stockade and unleashed him on the NBA as a general manager.

Hell, San Antonio's a better basketball town than New York.

Only arrogant New Yorkers think basketball in New York still matters. The Knicks haven't won a title since 1973 and haven't had a winning season since 2001. Patrick Ewing made the Knicks relevant and he was gone a decade ago. College basketball in New York is only partially relevant because the Big East tournament is played at Madison Square Garden, but the NCAA tournament has critically injured the relevance of that once mighty playoff spectacle (as it has hurt every conference tournament). St. John's is awful and Syracuse, in upstate New York, doesn't count.

Championships aren't the sole ingredient of relevance but they sure help. Jordan's Bulls, Bryant's Lakers and Garnett's Celtics moved the basketball epicenter from New York to a multitude of locations across the NBA landscape.

Television and the Internet have aided in changing everything. James coming to New York won't make him any bigger than if he went to Chicago or Los Angeles. Whether James is a Knick or a Cavalier, he'll still be one of the top five most popular athletes in the world.

Brett Favre became one of the signature names in sports history while playing in Green Bay, one of the least influential markets.

Being in close proximity to Wall Street won't make James a global icon. Winning a championship will.

My guess is James knows this and has little intention of coming to New York. James is smart. He knows the Knicks were so utterly obliterated by Thomas' incompetence that the team is still years away from a title. They have just four players under contract and only two of them are starters.

James has a better chance to win quickly and consistently in Chicago. Look at that roster. Derrick Rose is a superstar in the making. Joakim Noah is developing a better offensive game to go along with his superb defensive skills. Kirk Hinrich is solid and Luol Deng can shoot. Add James to that mix (and his friend John Calipari) and the Bulls are title contenders for years.

Miami is a better situation than New York for James, too.

The only reason James would pick New York is for ego purposes and I don't think James operates that way. He's much more of a basketball intellectual than people give him credit for.

James' ego certainly doesn't match those of New Yorkers who believe basketball in their city is still relevant. It isn't and might stay irrelevant for some time.

Unless Derek Jeter decides to play point guard.


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