In late March I wrote a piece called The Duper Level in which I argued that Lebron James needed the Big Apple to launch himself from mere Superstar to Super Duper Star (The Duper Level). At the end I speculated about how this year's post-season could affect his decision:
"I think the results of this year's playoffs could impact his decision. If, for example, the Cavs choke in the postseason, he may feel he needs to stay and win a title for Ohio. And good for him if he does. But if he wins a ring for Cleveland, and does so over Utah in a 6-game series that gets lower ratings than Conan O'Brien, he just might want to hear what those folks in the Garden have to say."
But here's the thing: when I said "choke in the post-season", I meant an upset in the Finals, not a 6-game ass-whupping in the Conference semi-finals*, one that included multiple blow-outs and the entire world calling into question whether Lebron is the second coming of Karl Malone or Patrick Ewing rather than the Second Coming of the Lord.
* It's May 14th, and the 2009-2010 seasons of Lebron James, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Ovechkin are over, further proof that making sports predictions is for fools and con men.
This unexpected development could play into the Knicks hands. Here's the Sports Guy:
"See, there was only one way LeBron was leaving Cleveland this summer: if the team fell apart so badly and indefensibly before the Finals that he could get talked into a 'You just need a fresh start with a new team' case. He couldn't leave if they lost in the Finals to Kobe's Lakers; he'd look like a coward. He couldn't leave if they won the title; no great player leaves a defending champ at the altar -- it's never happened before. But if it plays out like this? He could leave. Absolutely. It's conceivable."
Now Bill Simmons knows more about the NBA than all of us combined, but he also predicted* the Celtics would lose in the first round and the Mavericks would go to the Finals. So who knows?
* Simmons is neither a fool or a con man, but makes more wrong predictions per week than most people make in a year. But hey, ssports passion makes us foolish.
I’d like to add one other thing into the mix. Here is what Kevin Garnett told reporters about his conversation with Lebon after the game:
"If I could go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now with this organization, I'd have done it a little sooner. Loyalty is something that hurts you at times because you can't get youth back."
KG, of course, spent his prime in Minnesota getting booted out of the first round, then came to Boston and won a title. Now, I’m only a world-class superstar athlete in my dreams, so I don’t know about these things. But I bet that the words of Kevin Garnett – somebody who has walked in Lebron James’ high-tops - have more impact than those of agents, sneaker company executives, sports writers, and maybe even the members of your entourage. And what Kevin is saying is, “Get out!!!”
Who knows? Maybe he’ll end up with the Bulls. Maybe in his own heart he needs to stay in Cleveland. I’m not foolish enough to make a prediction.
But the futures market on Knicks season tickets just went up.