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SportsColumnistsJim Baumbach

LeBron could build unparalleled legacy in NY

Cleveland's LeBron James.

Cleveland's LeBron James. Photo Credit: AP

As LeBron James prepares to make the biggest decision of his life, the Knicks may be the wild card in this who-knows-what-will-happen scenario. The prevailing notion is that they're a longshot, but they cannot be counted out, not when James knows his legacy is riding on this.

In terms of how he'll go down in history, the Knicks have more to offer than any other team. Sure, the Heat can help win a championship immediately, the Bulls' roster could make them contenders for years, the Nets have the global appeal and the Cavaliers have the hometown advantage.

But the Knicks give James the chance to be forever known as The Savior, the guy who single-handedly turned around one of the most historic franchises in sports and made them winners again.

It's not a job for everyone - he'd essentially be starting from scratch compared to his other options - so if James passes it's hard to blame him. But to think the Knicks have no shot is just plain silly.

If James does decide to leave Cleveland, it's hard to see him going anywhere but New York. He knows this decision is going to define him, so why would he go the typical route?

Why go somewhere like Miami where he will be known as just another talented player who jumped when he had a chance to win a title? And why go to Chicago, where he'll always be second fiddle to Michael Jordan, no matter what he does?

Those scenarios don't sound like James' style. He's always done things his way, on his own terms, and clearly wants to be known as someone different - and better - than those who came before him. So it's easy to envision why the Knicks situation might appeal to him. He has the chance to do something no one else has done. He can save a franchise.

When Donnie Walsh and company meet with the most coveted free agent in the history of sports Thursday afternoon in Akron, they will certainly play up the possibilities of what he could become in New York. All they'd have to do is ask him to close his eyes and let his mind drift away, painting a picture of what life might be like a few years from now.

If James signs on with the Knicks and eventually won a championship here, suddenly it wouldn't matter how many championship rings he has in comparison to Jordan or Kobe Bryant. He would have already have separated himself from them, because he would have done the unthinkable. He would have taken a franchise that had fallen on such hard times, that was in the midst of unthinkable struggles, and single-handedly turned it around. Then he would really be a King here.

And while he doesn't have the supporting cast, the Knicks have the cap room, giving James the chance to build the team he wants. Sometimes the possibilities and potential are more attractive than the sure thing. Maybe James can convince Carmelo Anthony to come on board in a year. Or maybe one of the free agents this year is prepared to come with him. Who knows? But it all starts with James, and then anything's possible.

For two years the Knicks have been clearing cap space for this very moment. Now it's here, and we'll finally see whether James is up to the challenge. So, what is it LeBron? How's "Savior of the Knicks" sound as a legacy?

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