Even though the Miami Heat are rolling right now, LeBron messed up The Decision. Even if they win it all this season, I'm here to tell you that he missed the boat. LeBron should've gone to New York.
Bear in mind that I am telling you this as a lifelong Bulls fan who was ready to jump on season tickets if he had decided to take his talents to the Windy City. After seeing the Thunder take on the Knicks last Wednesday for my first Madison Square Garden experience, it's clear to me that the Knicks should've been the spot.
I was also in the house when Oklahoma City came to Chicago a few weeks ago, so I have something to compare it against. Both games had sellout or near sellout crowds. Both games featured teams that are better than they have been in a long time. Both games featured the star power of Kevin Durant in his lone visit for the year. But the buzz at the Knicks game completely blew away the experience at the United Center. One felt like a playoff game and the other felt like a typical mid-week NBA game between non-rivals in December. The Knicks game brought out stars such as Spike Lee, Seth Meyers, Ciara, John McEnroe and Turtle from Entourage. At the Bulls game, my buddy Wego might've been the 3rd most famous person in the crowd.
The main reason for the difference is the Bulls have had some playoff experience, and us Bulls fans are still slightly spoiled from 6 titles in 8 years even if the last one was more than 10 years ago. Knicks fans, on the other hand, are desperate for their team to be relevant again. Their recent run of 13 wins in 14 games electrified the entire city. Even the guy who sold me my ticket via Craigslist, after he first confirmed that I wasn't a cop (making a reference to The Wire, thereby instantly becoming my friend), wanted to talk about the Celtics game that had occurred seven days prior. He called it "the best regular season game I've ever been to." Of course, that might not be saying much considering he was probably 13 years old the last time the Knicks finished a season above .500. Still, even I'd call it the best game of the NBA season-to-date.
Another obvious difference is the stadiums. There's absolutely nothing wrong with The House that Jordan Built. It's very nice. Very big but very sterile. It's everything that the old Chicago Stadium was not. Of course, the United Center could never touch the old Stadium when it came to noise. The Gahhden reminded me on the old Stadium in that regard. My seat for the Thunder game was in the second-to-last row of the 300-level, and three feet behind my head was a ring of cinder block encircling the entire arena. Every DE-FENSE! and LET'S GO KNICKS! cheer reverberated off those blocks and straight into my eardrums. The old-school, organ-led chants made it feel like I was watching Jordan vs. Ewing instead of Durant vs. Stoudemire.
And speaking of Amare, the city has embraced him like he's the second coming of Derek Jeter. Although I was against the $100 million signing and still feel that he's not a franchise player, I've got to admit that I was wrong about Stoudemire. In a time where the league's most talented star willingly decided to play second fiddle, one has to give Amare credit for embracing the alpha dog role. Amare's 2010-11 season has been a self-fulfilling prophecy -- if you believe you're the best player in the league, then maybe you'll actually start playing like it. He's the best player to play for the Knicks since Ewing, and the fans treat every blocked shot, slam dunk, three-point play, free-throw attempt and successful pass out of a double team as an opportunity to show their appreciation with a "MVP! MVP!" chant. In a year with no clear-cut MVP favorite, this may be another self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to him walking away with the Mo-Pod trophy.
After witnessing Amare take over the city in just a few months, I couldn't help but wonder: what if that was LeBron instead? It would've been Amare times ten. LeBron would've owned the Big Apple. The Knicks would've been his team. He would've been playing in front of rabid, passionate fans that don't need to be reminded to show up on time and trained when to stand up and cheer. And I don't think NBA fans (outside of Cleveland) would've killed him for going to New York. As much as I would've loved to see him in Chicago, I could've lived with him on the Knicks.
We know that one of LeBron's key objectives was to become "a Global Icon." He's also said that he wants people to think of him as "one of the best players to ever play in the league". One thing that sort of gets lost in the shuffle with LeBron's decision is his dramatically lower numbers in Miami during the prime of his career. We're talking about a guy who has scored 3,800 more points by the age of 26 than Kobe Bryant. He could've broken every scoring record in the book, but willingly put that at risk by playing alongside Dwyane Wade. Consider he averaged 29.7/7.3/8.6 last season on a below-average paced team, the move to D'Antoni's Knicks (2nd quickest pace in the league) would've likely driven those numbers into the 32/8/9 range, almost certain MVP numbers. Contrast that with the 24.8/6.6/7.2 he's averaging in Miami, and we're talking thousands of points and potentially multiple MVP awards lost on what was previously a career with no ceiling.
[Note: the chart below shows LeBron's career points trajectory by age compared to the most prolific scorers in NBA history. You can see how LeBron is well above his counterparts at Age 25, although Kevin Durant is right on his tail. Seeing Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Karl Malone on this page only makes me think of those ridiculous Skechers Shape-Ups commercials. Did you notice that they changed Kareem's line from "He's not that close", which made absolutely no sense considering he was in the store buying the shoes specifically to protect his scoring record. You also have to question the logic of Skechers hiring a deadbeat dad and statuatory rapist as its spokesman.]
Of course, the counterargument is that the individual records aren't important to LeBron. He's all about the rings. Although Miami might be the quickest route to one or more titles, what happens if Miami wins this season? He gets his ring, but it's still Wade's team. Who's introduced last in the Heat starting line-ups? Kobe's got five rings, but people didn't start giving him his due until he won one without Shaq. And if he wins his 6th this year, it won't suddenly put him in the conversation with Jordan, as much as Mark Jackson tries to tell us otherwise.
If LeBron were to win a title in the mecca of basketball for a fan base still clinging to the fading memory of a title that occurred the year I was born (and I'm old), we're not just talking Global Icon but Living Legend. He'd be deified instantly for bringing a title to New York. I'd go as far as to say one title as the lead dogg in New York is worth at least three titles in Miami as beta dogg on a glorified all-star team. I wonder if deep down inside LeBron is regretting his Decision. I wonder if he had taken a couple more days and thought it through, whether he would've made the same choice. And after playing in the Garden last week, I wonder if he regrets that it's only twice a year instead of 50.
The Colton Index:
Teams of the Week:
|1. Milwaukee Bucks (from 20th to 17th) - Loss at Portland; Wins at LA Lakers, at Sacramento. Fear the Deer! Andrew Bogut has it going right now. After averaging less than 12 points per game in October and November, he's up to 17.3 points, 12 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game in December.|
|2. Detroit Pistons (from 26th to 25th) - Wins at Toronto; OT Loss vs Chicago. Pistons made up for blowing that huge lead at home to the Raptors a couple weeks ago by blowing them out in Toronto. Almost sneaked in a win against Chicago yesterday after the Bulls suddenly forgot how to rebound.|
|3. Miami Heat (stayed at 4th) - Loss vs Dallas, Wins at Phoenix, at LA Lakers. The win streak may have ended with a home loss to Dallas, but the Heat looked pretty impressive against Phoenix and the Lakers. Right now, Dallas, Boston, San Antonio and Miami look like they're two steps ahead of the rest of the pack.|
Teams of the Weak:
|1. Los Angeles Lakers (from 5th to 8th) - Loss vs Milwaukee, vs Miami. Should we start to be concerned about the Lakers chances at a three-peat? Two blowout losses at home this week. A 21-9 record so far with by far the easiest schedule to date of any team. A slew of teams looking a lot more formidable than we expected. Kobe's ready to rip his teammates a new one, so it will be interesting to see how they respond.|
|2. Denver Nuggets (from 8th to 11th) - Losses at San Antonio, at Oklahoma City, vs Philadelphia. Hard to kill them for losses against Oklahoma City and Philly when they were missing their best player, but might these types of Melo-less late-game collapses be a preview of what's to come after February?|
|3. Charlotte Hornets (from 21st to 23rd) - Loss at Washington, vs Oklahoma City. On Wednesday, I flipped on my iPhone to text my buddy Wego the following question, "Who gets canned first, Brown or Westphal?" but I got the news about Larry Brown before I could even open the Message app. The Bobcats are going nowhere fast, and Brown has a history of jumping right as the ship is sinking. I'm interested to see how they respond with a more uptempo style under new coach Paul Silas.|
Updated with Games as of Sunday December 26th
|Rk||Move||Team||W-L||Last 15||Avg Diff||SOS||SOS Rk||Colton|
Must watch games this week (all times ET):
Mon 12/27: Dallas at Oklahoma City (8:00 PM) - Why Grizz/Raptors is on NBATV instead of this one is beyond me.
Tues 12/28: New York at Miami (7:30 PM); LA Lakers at San Antonio (8:30 PM) - NBATV Fan Night
Weds 12/29: LA Lakers at New Orleans (8:00 PM)
Thurs 12/30: New York at Orlando (7:00 PM); San Antonio at Dallas (9:30 PM) - both on TNT
Fri 12/31: New Orleans at Boston (3:00 PM); Atlanta at Oklahoma City (8:00 PM)
Sat 1/1: Oklahoma City at San Antonio (8:30 PM)
Sun 1/2: Memphis at LA Lakers (9:30 PM ET) - 7 games scheduled, but not much to choose from
Dunks of the Week:
Here's our Top 5 Dunks from the last week, as voted on by the official Wegobomber Dunk Committee.
5. Paul Pierce gets the steal and throws down on Lou Williams, who needed to use the ol' "birth of his daughter" excuse to hide his face for the next two games from the shame.
4. There's one of these Baron Davis to Blake Griffin oops seemingly every game. Look where his head is in relation to the rim.
3. Chris Bosh with an emphatic dunk over Matt Barnes.
2. Only number two on this list, but by far the best three-step, coast-to-coast dunk by a Brazilian with one testicle I've ever seen.
1. The freight train otherwise known as LeBron James barrels down the lane and dunks with half of the Suns team hanging from him. Leave a comment and let us know if/where this one should go in the Dunk of the Year tab.
Bonus: If you ever wondered what it might look like if I tried to dunk in an NBA game, picture this but 7 inches shorter (me and the vertical).
Next Up on Wegobomber Basketball: The mid-week column is on holiday this week, but trust that we've got something in the hopper that is truly groundbreaking.
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