Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Sports Stars

LeBron James Larger i i

The Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James drives the ball to the basket past two New York Knicks at a game in New York in November. Kathy Kmonicek/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Kathy Kmonicek/AP
LeBron James Larger

The Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James drives the ball to the basket past two New York Knicks at a game in New York in November.

Kathy Kmonicek/AP

Ten is a nice round number, but let's imagine that Moses only came down from the mountain with, say, eight commandments. Which ones wouldn't make the cut?

Well, certainly since nobody keeps the Sabbath holy anymore — especially football teams — that one has already gone by the board. And then, I think if something else had to go, it would be that business about coveting.

Compared with 'Thou shalt not kill,' or steal, for instance, coveting seems relatively small potatoes.

Except perhaps in New York City, where coveting has run amok. In New York sports, the conversation is always about what players some other poor, little city has that we want, that, in fact, we deserve to have in New York. The Yankees feed this attitude by simply taking whomsoever they desire, like King David just grabbing Bathsheba for himself from poor Uriah the Hittite.

If the Mets don't go out and pillage a small franchise of some superstar that fans covet, everybody gets furious at the Mets for not being properly rapacious. But all this baseball coveting is nothing compared with how New York covets LeBron James.

He will be a free agent on July 1, 2010, and all Gotham believes that it is written that James must then come play — yea, save — the woebegone Knickerbockers. James himself feeds this frenzy by playing coy, but the LeBron fever has been stoked even more by, of all things, Tiger Woods.

You see, Mr. Woods, who himself showed us a thing or two about coveting, is no longer the golden boy for Nike. King James has succeeded to that position, and the conspiracy theory goes that now that he's No. 1, Nike desires him in New York, where he will give more exposure to the swoosh. There was even a hoax on the Internet last week that Nike had already produced a sneaker for LeBron in Knicks colors with "I love New York" printed on the sole.

And Big Apple coveting has reached new heights with the wishful theory that because LeBron makes so much money from Nike and other endorsements, he should gladly take next to nothing in salary when he comes to New York, and then, with the money saved, the Knicks could bring in yet another big-time free agent, like Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade. Especially when playing with other people's money, New York coveting knows no bounds.

Aha, but the issue is complicated. First, there is no longer any consensus that, in a cyberspace world, a star athlete needs to perform in a media capital like New York. I mean, LeBron James' Cleveland jerseys are already huge sellers all over the world.

Moreover, his whole identity is tied to Cleveland. He was born and raised nearby in Akron and never went off to college. For him to abandon the unfashionable land of his nativity to go to glitzy New York might reek of disloyalty and hurt his pristine reputation. Why, you could even say then that LeBron would be bearing false witness against old neighbors.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford