When the months of suspense peaked, LeBron James delivered a few words that rocked the NBA and changed two cities and franchises.
At 9:27 p.m., James, looking nervous and somewhat unsure, finally announced his plans from a small stage in Greenwich, Conn.
“This fall, and it’s very tough,” James said to a national TV audience. “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
In Florida, there was rejoicing.
In Ohio, only heartbreak and tears _ then anger.
The most wanted man in league history decided Thursday night that it was time to leave the comforts of home to chase a championship.
The two-time MVP, a player with supreme skills but without a title, decided to join forces with fellow superstars, good friends and U.S. Olympic teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh _ a dominant threesome that could rule the league for years to come.
“I can’t say it was always in my plans, because I never thought it was possible,” James said of this union with the two perennial All-Stars, players he has known for years. “I’ve looked forward to it. Those are two great players, two of the greatest players that we have in this game today. You add me, and we have a really good team.”
Landing James was a huge victory for the team president Pat Riley, who was able to corral the top three stars in an unprecedented free-agent class and now must resist the temptation to leave the front office to coach them.
James’ announcement ended weeks of speculation and capped a multi-ringed media circus in this age of social networking that spun out of control. It also concluded a somewhat embarrassing courtship of a player by cities, celebrities and franchises who fawned over the 25-year-old who doesn’t have a finals win on his resume.
New York, Chicago, New Jersey, Los Angeles and every other NBA spot came up short, finishing out of the money.
So did Cleveland. As it always does.
This time, losing was tainted with bitterness.
Once James shared his secret, fans poured out of the same downtown bars and restaurants that have thrived during these tough economic times. A few set fire to his No. 23 jersey while others threw rocks at the 10-story-tall billboard featuring James with his head tossed back and arms pointing skyward.
“We Are All Witnesses,” the mural says.View Entire Story
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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