LeBron Mania is sweeping the city!

One magazine's early welcome to LeBron James adorned New York City newsstands. Jeff Skopin/1050 ESPN New York

The digitally altered image of LeBron James on the cover of New York Magazine -- "Hey LeBron, Welcome to New York" -- lines the wall of the Hudson News in Penn Station this week. Store manager Seema Sharma can hardly wait to take her two boys to a game featuring LeBron as a member of the New York Knicks, and already imagines she'd have to bring in more staff on game night.

"People need water," she said.

Lord, do they. If LeBron James is immune to all the adoration coming out of New York City, can he withstand the begging?

It's been a decade of pain for Knicks fans, and in the twilight before James decides which franchise he will grace with his presence, there is space to dream. New York Magazine imagines LeBron in a blue and orange Knicks jersey (if you think you've seen that idea before, you're not dreaming), dunking on the Chrysler Building -- even four banners hanging from the distinctive ceiling of Madison Square Garden celebrating four straight NBA titles for the New York Knicks.

Don't mind me, that's just my allergies.

Clearly, New Yorkers don't trust the Dolan family to seal the deal on their own. And why would they? The inept Knicks owners were voted the worst in the city by ESPNNewYork.com voters. Between the disastrous signings and a sexual harassment suit, the Dolans took one of the greatest franchises in sports and in just a decade had it all but circling the drain.

Hard times for the folks who can remember when Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley were at least in the mix every year, when May still meant basketball in New York. Can you blame them for some desperation?

But the Knicks have crafted cap space for LeBron and New Yorkers are ready to forgive and -- oh criminy, LeBron, do I have to start crying again?

"If he comes here," said Elroy Brown, a 47-year-old from Bedford-Stuyvesant, as he gestured to The Garden in front of him, "we're already Knicks fans and it'll be sold out every night."

Brown was hanging out with the hot dog vendors in front of the world's most famous arena. A casual perusal of the crowd in and around the arena, with the NBA playoffs in full swing, and there was no Knicks swag to be found. No Knicks jackets, no Knicks hats, just a couple of tourists taking pictures in front of a fight poster.

"It will expand the bloody revenue if he comes here," said Joseph Mazon in a clipped accent. "This is all about revenue and I think New York will get it all if LeBron comes here."

Truth is, New York needs LeBron James a heck of a lot more than he needs New York. To that end, Spike Lee should organize a campaign to have every New Yorker send James a personal love letter and a copy of "Do the Right Thing."

That's right. Do. The. Right. Thing.

New Yorkers and Knicks fans are hoping against reason that LeBron will come here. It's the greatest city in the world and who wouldn't want to be here? Ohio is a delightful place to retire someday and be buried. But you aren't there yet, right, LeBron?

OK, so I found one guy who didn't really care if LeBron came to New York, but he has his reasons. Brian Rifkin grew up in Seattle as a rabid Seattle SuperSonics fan, and it's still very raw for him.

"At least you have somebody," Rifkin said. "Once you have a team taken away from you, you get jaded."

Do you see how sad that is?

LeBron James better get to the Knicks quick, or we're all going to be talking about how New York used to have an NBA franchise.

Jane McManus is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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