LeBron Poised For Free Agency, And A New Turn In Career LeBron James officially becomes a free agent Wednesday night, the instant July begins. No day has been so anxiously awaited in New York and other NBA cities since 1933, when Prohibition was repealed. But the key issue remains: When will James turn the corner on his career?
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When, And Where, Will LeBron Turn The Corner?

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When, And Where, Will LeBron Turn The Corner?

When, And Where, Will LeBron Turn The Corner?

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

There's lots of speculation and some nail-biting among NBA fans about the fate of Cleveland Cavaliers megastar LeBron James.

Sports commentator Frank Deford has a few thoughts.

FRANK DEFORD: Basketball is surely the only major team sport where the great player is faced with such a paradox, that the more he exhibits his greatness, his ego, the more he is likely to diminish the rest of his team and lose.

Rarely in other sports are the lasting reputations of great players scarred if they were not on a championship team. But after seven seasons without winning with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James is even sometimes put down as some glamorous matinee idol who hasn't the grit to close the deal - never mind that his Cavalier teammates have often only been a collection of little more than snips and snails and puppy-dog tails.

In fact, NBA history is rife with examples of heroes who could not carry their teams to victory until they were paired with a companion star. Bob Cousy could not win until Bill Russell joined him; Oscar Robertson needed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Julius Erving, Moses Malone and, yes, even Michael Jordan, who is celebrated as the most passionate winner ever, could not will his way to a title until Scottie Pippen evolved into his loyal Tonto.

This is especially important now as LeBron James officially becomes a free agent tonight - the instant July begins. No day has been so anxiously awaited in New York and other NBA cities since 1933, when Prohibition was repealed.

But the Knicks, in particular, are so woebegone that the thinking is that they can't possibly attract King James without also signing another free agent royal like Chris Bosh, who is likewise being set free - he, from Toronto.

Ironically, despite the league's salary-cap provisions, there are two ways that James could legally manipulate the strictures. First, and because he makes so much endorsement income away from the court, if he really wants a star sidekick to help him win a title, James could be like those plutocrats who take a dollar a year in token remuneration for some civic job. He could selflessly accept the NBA minimum allowed, and thus free up a huge sum for a running mate.

Or, as was first suggested by "Forbes," because Madison Square Garden is a publicly traded company, if James wants to play in New York, he could buy shares in MSG, then sign with the Knicks and cash in when the stock rose on the announcement.

Crain's New York Business estimates that the franchise's value could increase by as much as $150 million if James signs with the Knicks, even more if they can add an extra star and actually start winning.

It's certainly fair to say that never has any athlete been such a valuable financial commodity. And neither has any athlete ever been in such a position to, in effect, buy his own championship. Superstars often say they'd give anything to win. Well, James could. All he has to do is sell himself short.

MONTAGNE: Sports commentator Frank Deford joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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