There has been surprising backlash to the nearly two years of begging from New York to LeBron James, hoping that the superstar can come save basketball in this city. This article is one of many to make the case that there is something unseemly, undignified and unnecessary about Gotham using whatever methods are at its disposal to bring King James into the fold.
To these critics I say, do you begrudge the Vietnam vet holding up a sign begging for food? Do you believe those squeegee men, now left squeegee-less and unable to perform their one professional task (sound familiar, fellow journalists?), should simply find some corner to lie in until the sweet release of starvation?
Because we're starving here in New York. Basketball, which provided sustenance to so many of us, has been a decade of Kate Moss meals dressed in evaporating, overpriced sauces.
It is one thing to point out, and rightly so, that the Knicks have found precious few moments to bask in the playoff light. Where Ewing once made his home, the occupants this past decade have ranged from Nazr Mohammed to Othella Harrington, Michael Doleac to Eddy Curry.
Indeed, an all-decade team for the Knicks would likely fail to even contend for a playoff spot.
But the acquisition of LeBron James will do more than just greatly improve the Knicks immediately. More to the point, this decade has not been depriving for the fans merely because of wins and losses. The decade was shockingly filled without even hope.
Think about that for a second. Most teams who are terrible have hope, after all. They have draft picks -- high ones -- followed by debuts, and young players who falter at first, of course, but provide a window into a future when they do so less and less.
The Knicks? They traded draft picks. The traded picks for Stephon Marbury, for Howard Eisley. It appeared at certain points that the Knicks traded picks for nobody at all, so many of them disappeared and so little showed up on the court in blue and orange in return.
And LeBron provides, yes, hope. And he is the only hope. For even this spring, the Knicks, having completed another terrible season, have no draft pick. Greg Monroe, who could be the best Georgetown center since Patrick Ewing (and a fantastic pairing with James, incidentally), will not be drafted by the Knicks. He could well be drafted by the Jazz, with the Knicks' pick -- many analysts have him going ninth overall.
Other free agents could make the team better, though this class seems to have complementary players (Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson), players with a lot of mileage on the odometer (Dwayne Wade) or older players who wouldn't, and shouldn't, be called upon to rebuild (Dirk Nowitzki).
Only LeBron gives them hope. And much as a starving man is right to cry out for food, New York is right to cry out for LeBron. If the city did not wail for him, something very different than dignity would be the cause. It would mean basketball was already dead in New York.
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