“Born here. Raised here. Plays here. STAYS HERE.”
Are these the words that were echoing through the mind of LeBron James as he listened to the impassioned recruiting pitch of New York Knicks owner James Dolan, President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh, Assistant to the President Allan Houston and head coach Mike D’Antoni?
What can be said for certain though is the New York contingent that met with James and his team gave the two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player ample food for thought about the prospect of trying a Knick uniform on for size.
In addition to playing in the Big Apple, a city that he has called his favorite, James would have the opportunity to resurrect one of the league’s marquee franchises, with the assistance of another elite free agent player, while achieving iconic status in, arguably, the greatest city in the world today.
And from the Chicago Bulls to the Los Angeles Clippers to the Miami Heat, this enticing vision is what no other organization in the league can realistically offer to the most sought-after free agent in professional sports history.
But, if he truly cares about where his place will be among the pantheon of greats in the NBA annals when he steps away from the game, LeBron James should reject every offer placed in front of him over next several days, including the one from the Knicks, and elect to finish what he has started in Cleveland.
Now before the comments come flooding in to have this article burned in effigy due to its seemingly pro-Cavalier stance, one must take a moment to reflect upon the greatest winners in the history of the National Basketball Association.
Bill Russell won an astounding 11 championships in 13 seasons while anchoring the paint for the Boston Celtics from mid 50’s to the late 60’s.
Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson brought ‘Showtime’ to the Great Western Forum and, as a by-product of his rivalry with Larry Bird, changed the way the game was played as the main contributor in helping the Los Angeles Lakers raise five championship banners in the 80’s.
From 1991-1998, the only time the Chicago Bulls didn’t win the NBA Championship was when Michael Jordan took two years off to try his hand at baseball.
And when many thought Kobe Bryant couldn’t win a ring without Shaquille O’Neal, he proved his critics wrong by leading the Lakers to two consecutive championships to bring his title count to five.
The common link among all these players is that they achieved their greatness with the teams that originally drafted them (Bryant's draft rights were acquired by the Lakers less than a month following the 1996 NBA Draft); and, without a shadow of a doubt, there is a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’ about a player elevating the franchise that drafted him to heights it had never seen before, much like Tim Duncan has done with the San Antonio Spurs in recent years.
This is what LeBron James, a native Ohioan, needs to do to be deserving of being mentioned in the same breath as Russell, Jordan, ‘Magic’ and Bryant, who all fulfilled their promise and left nothing undone in Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles respectively.
LeBron James needs to finish what he started in Cleveland. Otherwise, he may never be truly fulfilled as a player for the rest of his life and the mark on him will always be that when the going got tough ‘The King’ got going.
“Drafted here. Played here. Stayed here. Won here.”
This is what can be said of the Jordan’s and Russell’s of this world as it applies to a particular NBA team; but James has the rare opportunity to take it to another level and become a transcendent figure in the game of basketball by lifting the state where he was born and raised to championship glory.
And if changing his jersey number from Michael Jordan’s #23 to Bill Russell’s #6 means anything to him, James’ decision should rapidly crystallize as he mulls over the numerous offers he’ll be receiving in the next week.
Make no mistake about it; his legacy will depend on it.
Click here to read the original article on Examiner.com, which includes relevant links and special video presentations featuring LeBron James.