Dear LeBron, We Need You

Photo: Walter Iooss/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images; Uniform illustration by Darrow

Hey, Lebron, it’s us, New York. First of all, congratulations on winning your second straight MVP last week. Now, may it be the last one you ever win with the Cavaliers. You see, we heard somewhere that your contract with them ends at midnight on July 1 and that you’ll be free to play with any team. And you know what? We think you’d love it here in New York.

We know you know a little bit about being the best, and, not to brag, so do we. You’ve probably heard the whole “greatest city in the world” thing—global capital of finance, media, fashion, and the rest. Home to enough titans of industry and celebrities to fill Quicken Loans Arena (if that’s really what they call the place you play) several times over. Whatever it is you enjoy most—going out for a nice steak, clubbing with friends, sitting at home stacking your money—this is the place to do it. That’s right, we think signing with the Knicks, the team that has lost more games than any other during your NBA career, is the best thing you could do.

Basketball, we know, is your first and true love, and we’re a pretty good town for that, too. Back in the seventies, the Knicks had legends like Willis Reed and Earl Monroe. (He was Black Jesus before you were the Chosen One.) When you were 9, we made the NBA finals with Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley. (Oakley’s from Cleveland, just up the road from your hometown, Akron; he’s owned car washes in both Cleveland and New York.) Michael Jordan, don’t forget, was born in Brooklyn. And we have the greatest street-hoops venues in the game, at Rucker Park and at West 4th Street.

Anyway, over the past seven seasons, while you were making yourself into the best player in the game, well, let’s just say things haven’t gone as well here. You might have noticed last season, when you went for 52 points at Madison Square Garden, or back in March, when you spent the fourth quarter perfecting dance moves on the sidelines as your Cavaliers romped over the Knicks 124-93, but we’re not very good. In fact, we’re terrible.

Now, you’re probably thinking, That’s a shame, but it’s not my problem. And you’re right. Our problem was named Isiah Thomas. He ran the Knicks for five seasons and almost destroyed the franchise with bad trades and crackpot free-agent signings. You can ask anybody. We didn’t even raise the subject when we were talking about your coming to the Knicks with David Falk—you know him, Jordan’s agent—and he told us the Knicks should have fired Isiah a long time ago. “The damage he created,” he said, “is extensive.”

But Isiah’s gone, and the Knicks are now fully dedicated to getting you here. Two summers ago, they hired a guy whose whole job is basically to do just that. His name is John Gabriel, and he invented the pull-out-all-the-stops, research-intensive approach to free-agent schmoozing when he was general manager in Orlando. Technically, his title is director of pro scouting and free agency, but it really should be “guy in charge of showering love on LeBron James.” Gabriel keeps detailed files on your likes, dislikes, and habits. He’s even been rehearsing for you. Remember last summer, when the Knicks were pursuing free agents Jason Kidd and Grant Hill? Those overtures, a Knicks insider told us, were just a recital for the performance you will get. The team never realistically considered signing either of them. When the Knicks dimmed the lights and announced Hill’s name on the PA as he came out of the tunnel onto the court during his visit, they were really thinking of you. Gabriel is so good, the plan almost worked too well. Hill’s agent told us that Hill gave the offer “very, very serious consideration.” That’s the kind of mad love the Knicks have for you. Us and our 8 million neighbors, too! New York is where you belong. Really. Here’s why.

Next: Because This Is the Place to Make That First Billion

Dear LeBron, We Need You