Why the Knicks should say ‘No’ to LeBron
Larry Bird. Magic Johnson. Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. Those are the capital-G Great players I have seen in my lifetime. One week ago, LeBron James was right there with them. But now, after folding meekly to the Celtics, he’s off my list forever. If the New York Knicks are smart they’ll scratch him off theirs too.
The different between a Great player and a great one is not talent. It’s not the ability to hang in the air a second longer or make a pass that no one else thought possible. It’s about obsession. It’s about a dogged, insane, borderline pathological obsession with winning. You don’t care what the game is, who it’s against, and who you’ve got on your side – you just know you’re winning that damn game. Larry and Magic had that. Michael Jordan was so obsessed with it that he chased victory all the way to baseball and high stakes gambling. Kobe Bryant hasn’t met a thing yet he didn’t try to beat – including a rape conviction. (BOOM) But LeBron, as we now know, doesn’t care all that much. Here’s “King James” after a devastating loss at home to the Celtics in game 5.
Woooow. Tough talk! That’s the level of anger I normally associate with the delivery guy forgetting to put my soda in the bag. “Wait, where’s my Diet Coke? I thought I ordered a Diet Coke. Oh well, I’ll just have water…” No ire, no humiliation, no calling his teammates out — nothing. If that had been Larry Bird up there, someone on his team would’ve been called a pansy and the word “pathetic” would’ve been uttered more than once. To describe himself, or his coach, or even his mother if he felt like. Which doesn’t make Larry Bird nice or endearing or even particularly likable, but it does make him Great. If the Knicks want to rebuild their franchise, they have to wait for Great.
The last thing you want on your team is an excellent player who can’t (or won’t) do it in the clutch. You build your team around them, you blow up your payroll for them, you place your future at their feet. And they don’t win you a god-damned thing. They’ll get you close. You’ll be right on the verge of the championship, tasting the champagne, and then they’ll fold. They’ll miss the last shot or turn the ball over because when it comes it down to it, they don’t care about the game all that much. It won’t keep them up at night. That was the LeBron we saw last night in Boston, and the LeBron the Knicks would see for the next eight years if he came to New York. And frankly, it’s more fun to just be bad. To have a team that just stinks it up night after night, wins thirty games, and let’s you go on about our life. You can’t get invested in that, so you can’t get hurt. But LeBron will break your heart. Like Karl Malone, or Alex Rodriguez, or the old Buffalo Bills. I’m sure his outlook is a much healthier one. You shouldn’t care that much about a game. But this isn’t about mental health, it’s about basketball. And I want a winner.
You think I’m exaggerating. You think LeBron still has it in him, and the Knicks would be crazy not to sign him up. Well just ask the 50,000 people in Cleveland who watched him in game 5; ask them how much fun the King James era has been. If you can get them to stop booing. Don’t do it New York, you’ll regret every minute.