LeBron James is going to lose the battle but win the war.
It's a fair question: What will come first -- LeBron winning a title or becoming the first billion-dollar athlete in history, which is his main goal?
There's no question: It's a lot easier to fulfill the latter if he completes the former.
So the bigger news out of Cleveland is not that LeBron and the Cavs losing the East finals -- which they will, because the Magic are the superior team (and that's without Jameer Nelson).
It is that the Cavs are doing this deal with Chinese business interests to give them a stake in the team. Because there isn't anything the Knicks can throw at LeBron -- fortune, fame, the country's biggest media market -- that can compete with the power of China.
I'm calling it now: With the team's new partnership in China, LeBron stays in Cleveland in 2010. I don't even think it will be a debate.
And with the special backing of these Chinese interests, is there any question that LeBron has an advantaged entry into the market -- even with the NBA, even with Nike helping him? -- that will get him a lot closer to that billion-dollar valuation, a lot faster?
Now, whether he can win titles is another story. I think that right now, the Magic look like the better team -- in fact, they look like the best team in the playoffs. (Undoubtedly, they will choke tonight, as a result of that, but no matter...)
Weren't the Cavs supposed to be so much better thanks to the moves by "Executive of the Year," Danny Ferry? All Mo Williams looks like right now is a punching bag with a flapping yap, not the Robin to LeBron's Batman.
Besides: Two stars -- even when one of the stars is LeBron -- can't top the Magic's 3 stars (Howard, Lewis, Turkoglu), plus superior role players.
The same situation is happening in the Lakers-Nuggets series: As I lead in today's SN column, imagine Kobe having a night like Carmelo had last night. Think the Lakers would win? The Lakers would be a Lottery team.
The Nuggets absorbed a terrible night for Melo -- and won by 20. Gasol vs. K-Mart/Nene/Birdman is a rout. JR Smith looked unguardable. Billups was Billups.
All this talk about "Kobe vs. LeBron" in the NBA Finals proves the point: If you're going to rely on individual stars, you're going to lose when faced with a more top-to-bottom talented team.
More you'll find in today's column:
*This Mike Tyson daughter story is horrific.
*Syracuse pulls off one of the greatest comebacks in LAX history.
*Of yesterday's MLB performances, I'll take the 10-run comeback (but if I have to limit myself to a single player, I'll take Carpenter).
Complete SN column here. More later and all day on Twitter, as usual.