Cleveland's LeBron James

Cleveland's LeBron James Credit: AP

As LeBron James looked at the Knicks hat in his hands, he was asked to describe what it meant to him.

"This," he replied, "is greatness."

That explains the humidity Friday in New York. It was a city blushing.

And that was LeBron in strategy mode. In some of the biggest cities in the U.S. - New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami - he is one of the leading trending topics.

Chris Cuomo actually asked the question weeks ago during a taped interview with James for ABC's "Nightline," which aired Thursday night after Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Celtics and Lakers. Cuomo, a New York native and son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, went just a tad over the top when he called the Knicks "the most storied franchise," but he did get James to offer thoughts about the one team that for two years has been preparing to make a run at him in free agency this summer.

"Unbelievable franchise," James said. "Great history, and not only from a basketball perspective but just from Madison Square Garden itself, all the artists that have come through there."

But don't get too excited, Knicks fans. LeBron had nice things to say about the Clippers' organization, too.

Those comments came during a more recent interview James did with Larry King, which aired Friday night on CNN. King talked at length with James about free agency and James said he liked the idea of talking with other star players about possibly teaming up. "If you put me and [Chris] Bosh on the same team . . . a lot of teams would be much better," he said.

But King curiously avoided talking specifically about the Knicks, though he did reference New York when he mentioned Mayor Michael Bloomberg's public plea. A person with knowledge of the situation said King and James discussed the Knicks off camera, but it wasn't brought up when cameras were rolling.

The most notable line to come out of the interview - in an effort to promote the show, CNN leaked transcripts in Cleveland on Tuesday night - was that James said the Cavaliers "absolutely . . . have an edge."

That would be a $47-million edge if he signs an extension before July 1. The number represents the $17.1-million salary James already has next season if he does not opt out and the $30 million more in total contract the Cavaliers can offer him because of rules in the collective-bargaining agreement that are designed to favor teams keeping their free agents.

The Cavaliers aren't just resting on the money. Coach Mike Brown was fired on May 25 and the team announced Friday that general manager Danny Ferry has resigned (his contract was up), with assistant GM Chris Grant replacing him.

Does this now open the door for the Cavs to hire James' friend, John Calipari? Ferry was said to be against hiring Calipari.

But Calipari on Thursday told that he and James have "never talked about me coaching him. That never came up in our conversation."

Meanwhile, a report surfaced Friday on that cited sources saying James is working with Nike to produce a new shoe for every stop on his free-agency tour, which will begin in New York.

Asked to comment on the story, a person close to James denied it. Or maybe that's also part of the strategy.

The Dolan family owns controlling interest in the Knicks, MSG and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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