LeBron James's Future Isn't About the Shoes

Nike won't pay James more to play in New York

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket around Antawn Jamison of the Washington Wizards. Now, the two are teammates.

    Over these last rough 10 years, Knicks fans have lashed themselves to a lot of passing driftwood as hope to survive the flood of losing. There may not be anything they've clung to more than the notion that Nike would pay LeBron James more if he came to play for the Knicks as a free agent.

    Time to try and grab onto something else. James reupped with Nike this week and several reports, including one from Darren Rovell of CNBC, agree that there is no bonus clause that would pay James more for wearing his shoes in the Big Apple. James will make more money by selling more sneakers, an area where he lags behind Kobe Bryant in all-important emerging markets like China.

    Explaining why Bryant sells more shoes centers on the fact that he's won more titles, a notion that has its merits until you realize that Tim Duncan isn't exactly causing merchandise to fly off the shelves in Shanghai. There's more to the formula than just rings, then, and the city Bryant calls home can't be ignored as part of his overall appeal.

    There's also more to LeBron's earning potential than simply sneakers. Corporations ran away from Bryant when he was accused of rape and haven't flocked back to him even though he was acquited and has confirmed his spot at the very top of the basketball world. James has no such black marks in his past and he's got a chance to make money from a wider stream of benefactors than his shoe-selling rival.

    Nothing laid out above makes coming to New York more sensible than staying in Cleveland. None of it makes staying in Cleveland make more sense than coming to New York either, though. James has the world in his hands and he'll decide what matters the most to him and make his choice based on that.

    And, to paraphrase the man that he's been chasing his entire career, it isn't going to be the shoes.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.