- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2009

Perhaps a Nike representative whispered into the ear of LeBron James and told him that all this talk of his impending free agency comes across as being disrespectful to his teammates and to the Cavaliers organization.

Other than the Witnesses living in the Cleveland region, no one is apt to be in a rush to buy shoes from an out-of-touch narcissist.

Whatever the deal, the narcissist finally - and thankfully - decided that enough is enough with his free agency obsession last week.

His teammates know too much already. They know he was all gushy on his last visit in Manhattan, where the Knicks are clearing salary cap space to make room for him. They know he is big buddies with Jay-Z, the rap mogul who has a minority ownership stake in the Nets. And they know James and Dwyane Wade have discussed uniting as a tandem.

Long before the calendar turns to July 1, 2010, though, James has more urgent matters to handle, namely an interminable regular season, the challenge of the postseason and an attempt to maximize the production of the aging Shaquille O’Neal.

“Honestly, you know, this free agency talk is getting old,” James said before the Cavaliers played the Magic last week. “You know, it’s getting old. I’m going to stop. I think tonight will probably be the last time I answer any more free agent questions until the offseason. I think I owe it to my teammates. I owe it to myself. It’s just getting old.”

If it is getting old, it is only because James has encouraged and reveled in the speculation. It is only because James is looking forward to being feted like a king in the cities he plans to visit in the offseason. He sees himself as King James, after all.

But James is more drama queen than King James. He is an adulation junkie. Amid the flashing of cameras, he wants to walk across a red carpet with flower petals strewn about it.

All this incessant talk degrades his teammates and devalues the task at hand, which is the business of winning games.

Perhaps James caught one of his teammates rolling his eyes after hearing him discuss anew his free agency, for he spent several minutes deconstructing the topic for the umpteenth time before deciding it was inappropriate in the midst of a season.

“I’m focusing on this season, and this is going to be a really good season for us,” James said. “I don’t want to have any more distractions to my teammates, to my organization, to my family. This will be the last time I answer a free agent question for the rest of the year.”

We are left to hope he sticks to his vow.

But do not be surprised if James, in a moment of self-indulgence, neglects the promise and talks wistfully of July 1 yet again.

It is all about James, in case you did not know.

It is his world, and you should be thankful that you are allowed to live in it.

When he speaks, he expects the world to take notes and respond accordingly.

He has instructed David Stern and the NBA to retire No. 23 in honor of Michael Jordan.

In conjunction with his edict, James said he will not wear No. 23 next season and perhaps will change to No. 6, which is comical if you know the history of the NBA.

No. 6 was worn by the game’s greatest winner, Bill Russell.

Russell claimed 11 championships in 13 seasons, two as a player-coach, which dwarfs Jordan’s six championships.

But who is keeping count? James certainly isn’t.

“I don’t think anyone in the NBA should be wearing No. 23,” he told TNT’s Craig Sager.

If pressed, his employers would say it is a fine idea, too.

They do not want to offend his highness.

They either have read or watched the same self-absorbed interviews as everyone else and can only hope James is not as eager as he sounds about July 1.

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