Black Sports: Lebron James Thinking of Leaving Cleveland

July 1, 2008

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LeBron James showed up in New York on Monday, part of a USA Basketball media function, and continued to bat his eyes at the city in the run up to his potential free agency in 2010.

When asked to name his favorite city he said: “New York.”

Favorite borough?

“Brooklyn,” James said. “Brooklyn is definitely a great place here in New York City, and some of my best friends are from Brooklyn, so I stick up for them.”

Brooklyn is where the New Jersey Nets are expected to move to in 2010 (at least if community groups don’t blow it). The franchise is owned, in part, by James’ friend Jay-Z, and should be stock full of young, complementary talent and a King’s ransom in salary cap room.

 

James knows all of this. His answers weren’t by accident or without meaning, no more than was wearing a New York baseball cap from an Indians-Yankees playoff game last fall just an expression of pinstriped-fandom.

This was just the latest, albeit most obvious, shot across the Cavaliers’ bow. James didn’t list Cleveland as one of his five favorite cities, although hometown Akron came in fifth behind Washington, Dallas and Los Angeles.

To say there is concern along the Cuyahoga River is to understate things. To say there is pressure on Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry and owner Dan Gilbert doesn’t begin to describe it.

Five years into James’ career and the franchise has yet to instill confidence in the 23-year-old that it knows what it’s doing. Forget his polite talk about the front office. It’s not James’ job to assemble the roster or publicly second guess new teammates (he’s a relentless cheerleader).

If James truly believed the Cavs were on the brink of winning a bunch of titles, he wouldn’t have a wandering eye.

LeBron doesn’t need New York to cash in as a media superstar or a marketing sensation – he’s making hundreds of millions in endorsements in Northeast Ohio. This is a different era and as big and bold as New York is, it isn’t the only place anymore. The guy signed a $105 million Nike deal out of an Akron high school, after all.

James does need New York, or the fear of New York, to motivate Gilbert and Ferry to surround him with a supporting cast capable of winning a championship.

If they can’t do that in the next two years, then he may need New York to fulfill his dream of a title.

 

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