Last night, during an interview with some NY beat writers, (including Alan Hahn), Kobe Bryant observed that 2010 free agency “will be interesting” because the Knicks “[ha]ve never had one of the flashy, marquee guys, going back even to the teams that won championships. They were always teams that kind of never had one star. So this would be the first time they had one of those guys.”
Now, this is a sensitive topic because we all love Patrick, and fans of my dad’s generation cherish the Holzman, championship teams and everything they stood for, but I think it’s a fair point and, incidentally, it’s something that Dan and I have discussed in the past when assessing the likelihood that Kobe himself would come to New York.
If you all remember it was only a couple years ago that Kobe demanded a trade because he was furious with the Lakers and totally dissatisfied with the direction of the team. And despite the ridiculous circus surrounding the Knicks, Kobe expressed interest in coming to New York and the Knicks were even perceived in some corners as a serious contender for his services.
At the time, I thought (and still think) that Kobe’s interest in joining the Knicks was legitimate. And it made perfect sense to me for precisely the reason that he cited to the Knicks beat writers yesterday: though the Knicks have a rich history and have experienced great success as a franchise, the franchise has never had that singular, transcendent player as its centerpiece.
I don’t mean that as a slight to the many great players that have donned orange and blue, and I don’t think Kobe meant it that way when he spoke yesterday either. The Knicks of the 60s and 70s played some of the best team basketball in NBA history, but their identity was that of a consummate team. And Ewing was a franchise player and a warrior, but no one would suggest that he was in the same class as Jordan, Magic, Bird, and Kobe. Those players are basketball messiahs. They bring a unique salvation, and the trajectory of franchises and their fan bases are forever altered by their coming. Ewing was billed to be that when he was chosen first overall in 1985, but he was not that.
Lebron could be that. The question is where.
In 2007, when Kobe thought he might leave the Lakers, I think he took a look around the league and percieved that there had been no Kobe-esque basketball messiah in the history of the NBA’s flagship franchise, which also happens to reside in the biggest media market in the entire world. He surmised that he could be to New York what MJ was to Chicago. Unsurprisingly, for someone like Kobe Bryant, the prospect of filling that void for the most zealous (and thirstiest) congregation of basketball worshippers in the world was incredibly alluring.
So when Kobe assesses the landscape for 2010 knowing that the void still exists, I believe he views NYC as the only place for Lebron. And you can bet that if Kobe were standing in Lebron’s shoes this summer, he’d be Broadway bound.
Now we just have to hope Lebron sees it that way too.