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Justice Is Served


January 22, 2010 6:20 PM

Hint about King James' future? Just maybe ...

Perhaps it was a sign from King James himself. Maybe, just maybe, he was dropping more than a subtle hint that what awaits his loyal subjects are more seasons like the seven he has given them. 

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But in following King James, you have to look for any hints -- subtle or otherwise. His candor about his future is as slippery as a politician's. Not that lies come out his smiling face; he simply favors coyness to full disclosure.

So as he stood near midcourt Thursday night, celebrating a homely-looking 93-87 win over Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers, King James swaggered in front of his adoring subjects. He puffed his chest and pulled the fabric on his wine-and-gold jersey taut to accentuate the words "Cavs" on its front.


His show of emotion likely meant nothing, as so much of what LeBron James does means -- not in the sense of offering introspection.

As much as his subjects know about him, they know so little. The men who travel in the King's crew might as well collect paychecks from the Secret Service for how well they insulate LeBron from the prying eyes of people who want to big deeper into his soul.

And those people are there; they are everywhere, looking around and dissecting his life, trying to find the secrets to his success or those sordid tales that always make for good tabloid headlines.

More than anything, those publications want to be the first to report what King James has in store for his future.

Financially, that part of his future is secure. His wealth exceeds most men's wildest imagination. He's more beloved than he could have thought possible. Even in his boyhood dreams, did he really see himself as this global icon?

In his hometown, in his backyard actually, he is as revered as any athlete in this city's history. Sports fans of a certain age might argue that Jim Brown was a more dominant talent, but only men from the oldest of old schools could posit the notion that Brown, the greatest running back in NFL history, was more adored.
The game, of course, has changed since Brown put on No. 32 and ran over defensive backs for a handsome living. Sports in the 1960s are a world removed from what sports are this century. Athletes today are brands, and no athlete's brand is more revered or more coveted than LeBron's.

Kobe's might challenge it, but with Tiger Wood's global image tarnished beyond repair, it
would be an interesting discussion about which of these NBA stars has supplanted Tiger as the No. 1 brand.

No. 1 or No. 2, it means little right now. Over the long haul, the King will emerge No. 1, because Kobe, 31, is closer to the end of his NBA career. King James, 25, hasn't hit his prime. 

So what lies ahead of him are admiration and adulation that might rival Michael Jordan's fame. LeBron will be in the conversation about which player was the game's best: Air Jordan or the King himself.

But that debate won't find an answer until King James has launched his last jumper. It's interesting barbershop chat, but it's not a question that nags NBA fans here while they wait nervously for his answer: Is he staying or is he going?

Before this year rolls into 2011, the King will give his answer. His contract with the Cavs expires at season's end. He will then have the pick of NBA teams to cast his lot with: the Nets, the Knicks, the Wizards ... everybody. 

All will court and fete and dine LeBron James like no professional athlete before him. They will try to convince him that Cleveland, his hometown, is too small a galaxy for a star like his to sparkle. They will call Cleveland an outpost similar to Siberia, a place not befitting of someone of his stature.

Nobody needs to tell LeBron James how dazzling his celestial light is. His basketball has taken him around the globe. From Asia to Europe, from Beijing to Boston to Barclay Square, he's no unschooled rube. He counts among his friends some of the richest men on the planet, and if they can achieve extraordinary wealth in places far removed from Paris, Tokyo, London, New York and Dubai, so can King James. 

He doesn't have to trade his hometown for places that promise him the universe. For King James has the world here. Isn't that enough?

That might have been the point of his on-court display in front of his hometown and the fans who have watched him grow from hoops wunderkind to NBA icon. He stretched in his jersey to showcase the word Cavs for a reason: his pride in the team. 

It is his team; it is his arena; it is his town. King James knows that better than anybody else. He has it all here.

Can the King get that anywhere else? 


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