In the end, the King took the easy way out.
LeBron James, in the most overhyped free-agent decision in sports history, announced Thursday night that he’s joining the All-Star duo of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. It’s the new Big Three. The Dream Team. The Trio of Tyranny.
Or the Axis of Evil, depending on your perspective.
James joining Wade and Bosh creates a vortex of power in Miami that could reshape the NBA landscape for the better part of a decade.
"This morning I woke up and had a great conversation with my mom," James said. "And once I had that conversation, I think I was set. The last time I changed my mind was probably in my dreams. And when I woke up this morning, I knew I had made the right decision."
LeBron’s announcement, the culmination of an unprecedented tsunami of hype and ego, came nearly a half-hour into the choreographed TV show fit for a King. He chose the Heat, and an alliance with the two other top players from the most anticipated free-agent history, over his hometown Cavaliers – who drafted him out of St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School down the road in Akron in 2003 -- as well as the Knicks, Bulls, Nets and Clippers.
"I don’t have any doubts on it at all," James said.
It was a rare chance for a player in the prime of his NBA career to team up with high-profile contemporaries and chase down championships – and for James, that cupboard is bare after seven years with the Cavs. It was also a chance for James to prove his stated loyalty to his hometown, the heartbreak capital of sports, and remain committed to bringing Cleveland its first pro sports championship since 1964.
But James, 25, passed on that chance, dealing a crushing blow to Cleveland and embracing instead the get-mine culture that will once again be associated with the NBA.
"It’s about joinig forces with the other two guys that I feel like I respect their games the most," James said.
He also passed up on the international stage – and another All-Star, Amar’e Stoudemire – offered by New York; the chance to follow in the footsteps of Michael Jordan in Chicago; and the allure of his friend Jay-Z’s Nets team, which in two years will move to Brooklyn. The Nets fell out of favor in the LeBron chase, and most league executives never believed the Clippers had a chance.
While James may have given himself the optimal chance to chase championships, there are a couple of issues to consider. First, there will be little flexibility for Heat president Pat Riley to surround his trio of superstars with a championship-caliber supporting cast. Second, and more important, James’ legacy could be damaged by failing to win a championship with the team that drafted him. No matter how many titles he wins, he may be remembered for this unabashed ring-grab.
"It's not a super team yet," James said. "We don't even have enough players to fill the roster. ... A team, or a championship team is not built on just three guys."
James did not divulge any contract terms, saying his agent, Leon Rose, was working on the details. He did predict that all three superstars will be willing to accept less money than they could've gotten in other situations.
As expected since James’ plans for an elaborate TV announcement earlier in the week, it was over the top. James even starred in some of the commercials, with his voice featured in the first one of the night. James announced the decision in an interview with announcer Jim Gray at the Boys & Girls Club of Greeenwich, Conn.