Ask any fan of the New York Knicks. They will tell you:
Being a fan of this team has been hard work.
From Bernard King to Mark Jackson and Michael Jordan to Hakeem Olajuwon, the New York Knicks' fans have endured a plethora of disappointments and heartbreaks over the course of the past quarter-century.
Dissipation. Degradation. Decimation.
(And just about any other "-tion" word that Mike Tyson has ever used in an interview.)
Knicks fans have seen, heard, felt, and experienced them all. Despite this, the faith and dedication of the Knicks' faithful is something that doesn't easily—if ever—waver.
So, cease your search for the quintessential embodiment of resiliency.
It's in Gotham.
The heartbreaks and laughingstock status notwithstanding, Knicks fans always believe. That's why, until the bitter end, they were optimistic about the chances of LeBron James deciding to take his talents to South Street instead of South Beach.
When news broke that The Decision would be broadcast from a Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich, Conn., even those who long dismissed the possibility of Madison Square Garden being a viable candidate to be the King's Court wondered why LeBron would choose a location in Knicks Country if he intended on spurning them.
(For those that don't know: Greenwich is about 30 miles from Madison Square Garden and is considered a suburb of New York City. Greenwich is also less than 20 miles from the Knicks' practice facility, which is located in Tarrytown, N.Y. The surrounding community has even served as home to many Knicks figures over the years.)
That LeBron announced his intentions to take his talents to the rival Miami Heat's South Beach in the Knicks' backyard was a kick in the groin.
And while Knicks fans were no strangers to disappointment. This was different.
It was personal.
LeBron James spent years flirting with New York City and Knicks fans. In visits to Madison Square Garden as a member of the Cavaliers, he fawned over the feeling of playing in the Mecca.
He approved a Nike campaign in which "he" wrote a letter to New York City explaining how he and the city share a passion for the game of basketball, and his gift to the city was renting and opening seven gyms around the city for high school kids to have open runs.
So, in actuality, to say he flirted with Knicks fans would be an understatement. It was more like dating. Knicks fans were cautiously optimistic and hoped that an offer of monogamy was forthcoming.
Obviously, it was not. LeBron was just playing the field and was secretly engaged to the Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.
For Knicks fans, the prospect of landing LeBron was exciting, because everyone thought he was next. What we saw was someone who was an unstoppable force that won two straight MVP Awards in 2009 and 2010 and led a roster of underwhelming talent to back-to-back 60 win seasons.
Sure, Patrick Ewing and Allan Houston were great, but LeBron, we thought, was the next great one.
He was the next Kobe.
He was the one that would end New York City's 40-year championship drought.
He was... the "Chosen One."
At least, that's what we thought.
One year later, after a pitiful showing in his second NBA Finals, we know better. At 26, there is still time for LeBron. But the aura of invincibility and Chosen One status? That's over. He's human.
And if he wants to succeed, he'll have to work just as hard as Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan.
Now, we know that King James is still just a prince.
If LeBron couldn't muster a bit more courage and perform at a higher level in an NBA Finals in which his team was favored to win and had home court advantage, why should we think that things would have been different in New York?
So, Knicks fans, if you thought the disappointment you felt when LeBron spurned you and your city for Miami was bad, imagine how you would have felt if he performed the way he did in the 2011 NBA Finals for your orange and blue. Yikes.
Of course, that's assuming LeBron and Amar'e Stoudemire would have eventually gotten past Derrick Rose's Bulls and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. At this point, we can't just assume that would have happened, correct?
With the weight of New York City on his shoulders and the thirst that a 40-year championship drought creates, in the NBA Finals, on the biggest stage, under the brightest lights, LeBron may have crumbled like Feta cheese.
Indeed, after witnessing his collapse in the 2011 NBA Finals, it is entirely reasonable to believe that he would not have been able to get your Knicks over the hump.
So instead of potentially being disappointed by the failure to live up to the expectations that a two time MVP and self proclaimed King and Chosen One would garner, the New York Knicks have Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.
Here, you have two players in their primes that never truly got the respect they deserved for being mainstays on winning teams.
Both are in search of respect, both have come up huge—at times—in the playoffs, and most importantly, neither brings with them the high expectations that LeBron would have.
While it is true that neither has ever played in an NBA Finals, the duo has played in a combined four Western Conference Finals. Together, they may be able to eventually bring New York City what it has longed for.
On the other hand, the Heat have two "superstars" — LeBron and Chris Bosh — who have yet to silence their critics. They have two pieces — LeBron and Dwyane Wade — that don't necessarily mesh, and a mountain of self-inflicted pressure, thanks in large part to the king still in search of his crown.
For sure, LeBron has been busy doing more talking then walking.
(And that's saying a lot, because to his credit, he has done a lot of walking.)
Simultaneously, we were so busy listening to him, thinking about a dynasty in Miami, and comparing him to Michael Jordan that we overlooked the more appropriate comparison between him and Dwyane Wade.
Remember, Wade has come up big when it's counted most. And Wade, unlike LeBron, has won a championship.
One year later, Knicks fans, you should be thanking your lucky stars that LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach and not make Madison Square Garden the "King's Court."
Knicks fans would have quickly realized that LeBron's dedication to his off-court pursuits and his quest to become a billionaire seem more important to him than the pursuit of his seven championships.
LeBron has spent summers promoting documentaries, having autobiographies written, laying the groundwork to invest in Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and creating a cartoon series.
And while there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, anyone paying the least bit of attention should realize that after eight years in the NBA, he still doesn't have a consistently reliable mid-range jumper or an effective post-up game.
Specifically, during the past two summers, Lebron has made money while Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard trained with Hakeem Olajuwun.
There absolutely is something wrong with that.
Michael Jordan — LeBron's idol — amassed his fortune because he was successful on the court. At this point, it is fair game to wonder if LeBron is simply using his on-court success to amass his fortune.
There's a difference.
Some say LeBron chose Miami because he "didn't want to have to do it by himself." However, couldn't that be interpreted as saying en route to winning, he didn't want to work as hard as someone like, say, Dirk Nowitzki?
That might be an unfair question. But things like that tend to happen when you self-impose an obligation to win eight championships but disappear when your fate is in your hands.
Had LeBron joined the New York Knicks, he would have been on every billboard from Madison Square Garden to the George Washington Bridge. He probably would have loved every minute of it.
If he came up short when it mattered most, though, it's something New Yorkers would have noticed. And yes, it would have gotten ugly. Fast.
Surely, LeBron James is an all-time great NBA player and one of the most versatile talents the league has ever seen. But what he is not, is maximizing his potential.
What he is not, is dedicating his life and his legacy to winning.
In New York City, that wouldn't fly.
And at this point, it's fair to wonder if that had something do with him becoming a South Beach Bum.
So, Knicks fans. I understand your disdain for LeBron James. I get it, he toyed with you. He shunned you. He made you feel rejected and inadequate. Be upset with him if you must.
But certainly, don't hate him. Not anymore.
Instead, thank him.
That's right — Knicks fans should thank LeBron James.
He may have spared you a disappointment unlike one you've ever felt before.
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