Getting bounced -- humiliatingly -- in the 2nd round of the playoffs after an MVP season leading his team to the best regular-season record in the NBA is the defining moment of LeBron's career.
That's not to say that it will REMAIN the defining moment of his career. But for now? Absolutely, without question, this failure -- epic failure, frankly -- is THE defining moment for him.
As I argue in today's SN column, that's not to say LeBron isn't the biggest talent in the NBA -- perhaps the biggest talent in the history of the NBA.
But that IS to say that, perhaps because of his individual success, he is defined more by his failure.
*Let's stop for a second and consider that final minute of the game, where the Cavs just up and quit. It was stunning. It was the lasting image of the team, of LeBron and of his Cavs career.
(I don't think this can be stressed enough: LeBron looked like he really didn't care. I was tough on LeBron last year when he didn't shake hands with the Magic after Orlando eliminated him. I actually liked THAT more than his diffident -- I'm willing to accept "shell-shocked," except I really believe he wasn't -- reaction to getting bounced from the series. He was soulless.)
*What next for LeBron? When he says "my team" in the post-game interview, he means "Team LeBron," not the Cavs. I think he is gone. I think he will sign with the Knicks.
*That does NOT mean he is any closer to winning a title in NYC than he is in Cleveland -- then again, as of this morning, Cleveland is no closer to winning the 2010 NBA title than the Knicks.
*If I was LeBron and wanted to win a championship -- AND make big money, which is obviously important to him or else he would sign with Orlando for the league minimum and win 80 games -- he should sign with Miami and play with Dwyane Wade.
*But that's where things get interesting: There's this myth that LeBron cares about winning more than anything. That's simply and demonstrably not true.
*In fact, I would put winning behind: (1) Being a "global brand." (2) Being a billionaire. (3) Making max money in the short term.
*He can do what he wants. But he has to know that every choice will come with consequences: Both how and when he wins and what kind of legacy he leaves behind in Cleveland.
*If he leaves, I suspect that fans -- not just ones in Cleveland -- will feel like the indelible mark was the final minute last night. The failure, not the success.
And that's probably fair.
Complete column here. More later.