2. Of Course, Money Isn’t Everything

Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images; Illustration by Joe Zeff Design.

We left a big if in that last section. If you win. You would be forgiven for pausing on those three little words. Winning an NBA title (check that: titles), we know, is everything to you. Falk spelled it out directly: “Gloss over the money, over whether LeBron could sell more shoes in New York, get more TV roles in L.A., or a better tan in Miami. He’s going to go where he can win.” Fellow agent Bill Duffy says that “superstar players become validated when they win a championship.” Christopher Gebhardt, the researcher from your 2006 brand summit in Akron, gave us his tagline, “the accessible hero becomes the people’s champ.” And Darren Rovell, CNBC’s sports-business reporter, just plain threw down: “Kobe Bryant is bigger than LeBron in China because they value championships.”

Right now you’re in a playoff battle with Boston, and the Cavaliers have some pretty good talent in Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams. But we’re here to tell you that while you may win one in Cleveland, you could win four or five, maybe six or seven in New York. Don’t look at the assembled has-beens and also-rans currently filling Knicks jerseys. They are placeholders. These Knicks are a blank canvas, ready to be filled in however you wish.

You’re a Yankees fan, so you’ve seen how it works when they want an elite player. If the Knicks were the Yankees, and the NBA were Major League Baseball, the Knicks would just write a check, let you fill out the amount, and tell everyone at the press conference how you came to New York for the schools. “If there were an open market,” Gennaro told us, “I can’t even imagine what LeBron would get.” Alas, the NBA has a salary cap, so the Knicks can only pay you so much. But the good news is that Donnie Walsh, the guy the Knicks brought in to replace Isiah Thomas, is almost as good at clearing salary-cap space as Isiah was at blowing it. Falk says bringing in Walsh was “the most important step” toward getting you. Walsh made room to offer you the maximum allowed: roughly $96.1 million over five years, with $16.6 million of that coming next year. (If you don’t want to be tied down that long, just say so! The Knicks will accommodate!) It wasn’t easy. When he arrived in April 2008, there were four players with fat contracts standing in your way: Jared Jeffries, Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, and Eddy Curry. Walsh got rid of the first three. Curry is still here, but his contract expires next year, which, in the bizarro world of NBA economics, makes him a valuable trade chip. In the meantime, we know the two of you are friendly; perhaps you can finally get some use out of his seven-foot, 300-pound frame.

Still, Walsh had to give up a lot to get it done, including first-round picks after the next two seasons. Right now, there are only four players locked in for next year: Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Toney Douglas, and Curry. No, that is not a group that screams dynasty-in-the-making, but that’s not the point. The point is that there is plenty of room to rebuild the team in your image. Even better, the Knicks have cleared so much cap space that they will in all likelihood have room to offer two max deals, one for you and one for one of the other stars in this deep free-agent class. No other team can say that. Yes, Miami already has Dwyane Wade and could add you with him, but with the Knicks, you could simply call your favorite available player and see if he’s up for joining you. And who wouldn’t want to get paid maximum money to play with you—the greatest player in the world—here in the greatest city in the world? As it happens, we have a particular guy in mind, a superstar in his own right, the Scottie Pippen to your Jordan …

Next: Because You Could Be Playing With Chris Bosh

2. Of Course, Money Isn’t Everything