Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Over the weekend, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News published a report suggesting that LeBron James may have some interest in joining the Phil Jackson-led Knicks, but fans in New York have played this game before, and shouldn’t get sucked in to the prospects of it actually happening.
2010 was an utter disaster from fan’s perspective. We were so brainwashed into thinking that one single blockbuster free agency could change the fortunes of a franchise that had been so unlucky for the previous decade that we didn’t care that our team was tanking without any draft picks. At the very worst, the Knicks were going to come out of that summer with Amar’e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson, and to most, that was okay. New York was finally going to get back to basketball respectability.
My friends and I even rang in the New Year with chants of Le-Bron! Le-Bron! But come July, everything went wrong. Not only did King James skip out on New York, but he came away rather unimpressed from his initial meeting with Knicks management, a meeting that included then-GM Donnie Walsh, irrational owner James Dolan, and coach Mike D’Antoni, who has become nothing but a scapegoat for the lackluster play of the Knicks and Lakers since then. Dolan later sent over Isiah Thomas for a face-to-face meeting in a last ditch effort to lure James to The Big Apple. Yes, the same Isiah Thomas who was responsible for the downward spiral of New York basketball in the first place.
We can’t blame LeBron for taking a pass on the dysfunctional Knicks, but he didn’t have to play with our minds too. The rumor mill was erratic, so it’s hard to know what was actually true, (my guess is that it was less than 50%) but certain actions made it seem like he was very intrigued by the bright lights of New York. I had been listening to ESPN Radio as I fell asleep each night that July, (yes, it was 2010, not 1910) and on the eve of The Decision, it was announced that a private jet of his had landed in White Plains, New York, the same location where he would chose his team in front of a national audience. Callers we blowing up the lines claiming they were real estate agents and he had been searching for homes in the area, claiming they worked at the airport and saw him arrive, etc. LeBron James traveled almost 500 miles from Akron, Ohio to just down the road from the Knicks practice facility in New York state, only to announce that he was “taking his talents” to Miami. None of it made sense. Not only did the Knicks just waste their last two seasons saving cap space, but their prime target just tugged at the heartstrings of the whole city. King James played with our emotions, and the damage was irreparable.
Time does heals all wounds, but still, Knicks fans need to approach the latest rumors with caution. Obviously, having James here would be great. It would be terrific. It would be life-changing. However, it should still be considered a long shot. Given the backlash he received the last time he left a city too early, it’s doubtful that he’d subject himself to such brutality again, at least anytime soon. Phil Jackson, thought to be the main reason of intrigue on LeBron’s part, hasn’t even officially been hired yet, and we don’t know if his arrival even means the retainment of Carmelo Anthony, which would be an obvious necessity in getting the King here.
LeBron would certainly have plenty of reason to come to the Knicks. Just one championship would set this city on fire, (that could possibly be a literal statement) and James would easily go down as a folk hero in New York sports. The duo of LeBron and Melo would be one of the toughest to defend in the league. Those of you who don’t think the two would mesh well together should take a look at Anthony’s past Olympics performances. He excels even further when he doesn’t have to carry the offensive load all by himself. Plus, James is a more than capable distributor. However, what’s most important to the fans is that he’ll have the chance to repair the wounds that have still been left untreated for almost five years now.
He should want to come to a city that deserves good basketball. Knicks fans are so thirsty for a championship that they’re willing to put up with a rebuilding project every five years to make it happen. Fans in Miami won’t even sit through an entire game of the NBA Finals if their team isn’t comfortably ahead. And did you see how many people were left in the stands by the end of LeBron’s 61-point performance a few weeks back? Pathetic.
New York is clearly more deserving, and while it’s fans should root for King James to come, they shouldn’t get as emotionally invested this time around. If James is on board with resuscitating a franchise that actually puts fans in the seats before the second quarter, that’s great. If not, we now have Phil Jackson to lead the Knicks on their own.