LeBron James on Knicks’ return to relevance: NBA ‘simply better off’ when they’re winning

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LeBron James is no stranger to the value of big NBA markets. The Los Angeles Lakers spent half a decade floundering before he decided to join them in 2018, and the results have been beneficial for all parties involved. James is once again an NBA champion, and one of the league’s biggest markets once again has a marquee team, which has financial benefits for the rest of the league. But Los Angeles isn’t the only major market that had been hurting. New York has struggled for years as the Knicks have been out of the playoffs since 2013. 

That streak is likely going to end this season. The Knicks are 33-27 and have won eight games in a row. They currently occupy the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, and James has taken notice. On Thursday, he tweeted about what New York’s success means for the NBA. 

Ironically, James himself could have put the Knicks back on this path at several points over the past decade or so. He was a free agent in 2010 and met with the Knicks, but ultimately chose to sign with the Miami Heat. He picked the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 and the Lakers in 2018. But LeBron’s decision to play elsewhere has never stopped him from praising New York as a city. In 2008, he called it his favorite city, and in 2018, he told Dwyane Wade on the floor that their final matchup only could have taken place at Staples Center or Madison Square Garden.

Ironically, New York’s turnaround hasn’t been sparked by a James-caliber superstar. The Knicks have been chasing such a player for over a decade, but ironically, it has been a consolation prize that has turned things around for them. The Knicks signed Julius Randle only after Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant decided against signing with them. Behind Randle and Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks have returned to respectability for the first time since Carmelo Anthony’s peak. 

It’s a dream scenario for the league financially. Both teams in New York and Los Angeles are set to reach the postseason, and glamour markets like Golden State, Boston and Miami should at least reach the play-in round. Almost all of the league’s major cities are trending in the right direction, but there is nothing in basketball quite like a successful Knicks team. It energizes the most basketball-crazed city on Earth, and even players like James have taken notice. 

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