Friday, December 17, 2010

LeBron who? Amar'e has made the big apple forget about LeBron James

As quickly as Tino Martinez made New Yorkers forget about Don Mattingly, Amar'e Stoudemire has made New Yorkers forget about LeBron James.

It almost seems like ancient history now, but back in July the whole city of New York was salivating at the possibility of King James becoming the King of New York. Knicks President Donnie Walsh for two seasons had cleared up cap space by dealing away fan favorites in numerous trades as well as draft picks to gut the rotting corpse that former Knicks President Isiah Thomas had left him. And he had done a good job by giving the Knicks the ability to sign two max contracts in the summer of 2010.

New Yorkers believed that LeBron was their guy. LBJ dropped little subtle lines here and there. James was always donning a Yankees cap. It made sense, right?

Then the Cavaliers were bounced from the playoffs and the frenzy began. For the next 50 days, the top story was LeBron, LeBron, LeBron! ESPN even dedicated a page on it's website featuring a ticker to the days left until NBA free agency began.

July 1 came. The Knicks met with LeBron. For the next week, the sports world was able to create thousands of stories based on chatter and rumors, most of it unverified. It literally changed by the minute. He was going to Chicago...Cleveland...New Jersey.

But that didn't matter. New Yorkers still believed LeBron was there guy - it had to be. They deserved it. They had spent this entire decade waiting to be great again, and this was New York's chance. It's destiny!

Even Wall Street was in on it. The MSG stock sky rocketed in the days before The Decision speculating that LeBron was going to be a Knick in the fall.

Then the Knicks inked Amar'e. Amar'e wasn't the player the Knicks really wanted but he'll just be a piece for LeBron - right?

"The Decision" came. LeBron was taking his talents to South Beach. New York was hungover for about a week. Darkness swept the Knicks Nation. New York would never recover from such a blow.

Now all the Knicks had was a $100 million power forward with bad knees. The Knicks were going nowhere...again...

The Knicks started with a 3-8 record losing a string of games to sub-par teams. New team, same story. ..

The End...

Then the remarkable happened. The Knicks started playing well. They strung several wins together on a western roadtrip and suddenly New York was paying attention.

The winning continued. And now the Knicks believed they could win any time they walked on the court. The swagger was back. Basketball was back in New York.

The Garden became alive for the first time in years and the Knicks were playing meaningful games for the first time in a decade.

Who is to "blame"?

Watch any Knick home game and you'll hear the crowd chanting MVP - and it's only December. For who? Amar'e Stoudemire. The true savior of New York. The guy that was supposedly New York's silver medalist of this past summer's free agency. The guy the Knicks were never really after. The guy that has been the most dominant player in the league since mid-November. The guy that has been flushing the ball on opponents on what feels like every play and averaging over 30 points a game over the last 10 contests. And the guy who during a 6-game losing streak publicly challenged his teammates to not accept losing and single handedly turned the season around for the Knicks. Amar'e has taken the reigns as New York's emotional leader and New York has embraced him.

His toughness and fearless style is exactly the type of player that fits the mold in New York. Thick skinned. Ice water flowing through his veins. Amar'e takes responsibility for wins and losses by putting the team on his back. He wants the last shot. He gets in the opposition's face if you tick him off. He knocks players to the ground after a blocked shot and stares them down. He screams in your face after he dunks it on you. Electricity and passion. This is what New York wants and has wanted the whole time. Not pomp and flash. He's not a King. He's blue collar. He's New York.

The Knicks meet the Heat tonight for the first time this season. In October this game would have been about reigning boos on LeBron for payback. But now Amar'e has made it about winning.

LeBron James? LeBron who? How quickly New York has forgotten. How quickly Amar'e has made New York forget.

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