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Sports

June 2, 2009

Expect LeBron to be New York-bound

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.

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