Circle this date on your calendar: July 18, 2009.
It will be possibly the most important day in Cleveland sports history, and it has nothing to do with the Indians-Mariners game (yawn!) that night.
That's the first day Cleveland will have the chance to make LeBron James a Cavalier for life. It is the first day they can offer him a contract extension before he becomes a free agent after next season.
It's when questions about his desire to save Cleveland, and destroy its gigantic inferiority complex, will hit overdrive — Will he or won't he stay.
When James left the court after the disappointing Game 6 loss in Orlando without congratulating the Magic or meeting with the media, a message was sent.
The pressure was, and is, too big.
Mind you, James could not have been more sportsmanlike a year ago after the seventh game loss to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals at the TD Banknorth Garden. You'd have thought Paul Pierce was his hero and the Celtics his favorite team.
The multi-talented James is being pulled in many different directions, particularly from the New York area by Spike Lee (rabid Knicks fan) and music mogul Jay-Z (New Jersey Nets minority owner). The fact that he so often wears a N.Y. Yankees hat in public throws gasoline on the hot issue.
It would be a great story for Cleveland if, on July 18, James doesn't waste time and agrees to stay with the city that has the patent on snatching defeat from the jaws of winning championships.
Before the Cavs' loss to the Magic, it was the Indians blowing a 3-1 lead against the Red Sox in 2007. The Indians losing to the Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series (Indians led 2-1 in the ninth of Game 7 before losing 3-2 in 11 innings) was another heartbreaker.
The Browns owned the anguish after losing to John Elway in "The Drive" in 1987 and "The Fumble" in 1988 before then-owner Art Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore in 1995.
What Cleveland fans don't want to hear is this: It would probably be a greater story for the National Basketball Association if James went to Knicks and got that region into pro basketball again.
Imagine the marketing possibilities — Celts-Knicks and Lakers-Knicks — if James, probably the greatest athlete alive, was based out of Manhattan.
It would be very hard to say goodbye to Cleveland. Better yet, it would probably get very ugly.
The tell-tale sign will be on July 18. If James is a no-show, vacationing in some resort, unable to be reached for comment, we may have our answer.
NBA becoming 'fantastic' again
We have Danny Ainge to thank. Basketball, particularly of the NBA variety, is back on the map in Boston, and we have to admit it's a pretty good product these days.
Ainge groomed some young talent, used it to acquire a pair of stars, and presto "Celtics Pride" returned as if it had never left.
In the meantime, we have come to realize that the NBA is putting out a good product.
Even removing the two thrilling seven-game series with your Celtics, these playoffs have had some interesting storylines and last-second finishes.
The Denver Nuggets, with new point guard Chauncey Billups, blasting through New Orleans and Dallas. Their six games with the Lakers were legitimately thrilling games.
Watching Orlando grow into a champion right before our eyes was also worth watching. You have to give Orlando credit. They beat the Celtics squarely and fairly in a Game 7. That had only happened once before in the history of the Celtics franchise.
And Cleveland-Orlando was must-see TV. From James' late-game heroics to Dwight Howard's dunks, you saw two great teams fight for a championship berth. I don't remember saying that too often the last half-dozen seasons.
The NBA finals is intriguing, even without LeBron James.