It seems preposterous to think about -- much less talk or write about -- LeBron James leaving Cleveland, the franchise that drafted him and the NBA city closest to his native Akron.

But just as every parent knows their children will grow up someday, James' looming free agency becomes an increasingly tangible reality for the Cavaliers. True, Cleveland has the rights to King James for the next three seasons, after which James' contract allows him to opt out in the summer of 2010.

The harsh present reality for the Cavaliers, however, is that James may already be developing aspirations grander than Cleveland could ever contain. Part of that reality is attributable to the star power that James has amassed in a relatively short period of time: rarely, if ever, has a basketball star dominated the game so early in his career, and never has there been so much hype surrounding a player from such a young age.

A second component of James' aspirations, though, may have been passed on to him, planted like a seed in his mind, by none other than the rapper Jay-Z. As Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports wrote in an excellent column today:

At an All-Star weekend banquet that he hosted with James, "Jay-Z talked of a tomorrow when these two monuments to music and basketball will transform the rules of engagement for the iconic performer, one witness said. He talked of making history."

Wojnarowski points out that Jay-Z, who has a minority ownership in the New Jersey Nets, has been acquainted with LeBron since James was in high school. The rapper has become a mentor of sorts to LeBron, who has made it known that he wants to transcend the game of basketball.

The Nets are moving to Brooklyn, and they are already pinching their pennies in anticipation of James' availability. If James is looking to make an even bigger name for himself -- we're talking the stuff of Michael Jordan, here -- could there be a better place to do it than New York City?

LeBron knows this. Jay-Z and the Nets know this. Cleveland probably knows this, but denial has to be a pretty attractive option right now.

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