Eleven years ago today, LeBron James shocked the world and changed the state of the NBA forever.
On July 8, 2010, James announced he would be leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and “taking his talents to South Beach” to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat.
11 YEARS AGO TODAY
LeBron James made "The Decision" to take his talents to South Beach!
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 8, 2021
“The Decision” was a public spectacle, dragging on for close to an hour before James finally informed Jim Gray of his intention to join “The Heatles.” It was an immediate PR disaster for James and his camp as many felt the public decision to be unnecessarily cruel to Cavaliers fans.
It set the stage for Miami becoming the ultimate villains in professional basketball, with fans burning James’ jersey in Cleveland, and the Heat being mercilessly booed in every arena in the country.
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert penned an angry letter to fans, calling James’ decision a “cowardly betrayal,” guaranteeing a championship in Cleveland before James brought one to Miami.
“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”
After having time to reflect on the way he made his decision, James admitted he would have gone about it differently if given the chance.
“Probably one of the hardest times in my life,” James said in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “After the Finals, I sat in my room for two weeks. Did absolutely nothing, talked to absolutely nobody.”
“I didn’t feel good. When I made the decision, I was still living in Ohio so you could feel it,” James said when asked how it felt to be the villain. “You don’t even have to hear it sometimes, you could feel it. The hatred, or whatever the case may be, of my departure. If I could look back on it, I would change a lot of it. Having the whole TV special and people getting the opportunity to watch me make a decision on where I’m going to play. I would probably change that. I can now look and see if the shoe was on the other foot, and I was a fan and was very passionate about one player, and he decided to leave … I would be upset by the way that he handled it.”
That doesn’t mean the move turned out badly for James.
James led the Heat to four NBA Finals, winning two championships, and was voted MVP of the league two times while in Miami.
His decision to leave Cleveland in free agency shook up the league, and it’s also set the stage for star players to jump from team to team in the years since.
The “player empowerment era” is currently in full throttle, in large part due to James.
In 2016, Kevin Durant made the decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder in order to join forces with Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Durant’s decision drew nearly as much vitriol as James’ decision did, but it’s hard to believe the move would have been possible without James taking the step of leaving Cleveland in free agency six years earlier.
Kawhi Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio, Anthony Davis told New Orleans he wanted out, and James Harden got his way when he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets after growing tired of the Houston Rockets organization.
There are many who feel that James’ decision to leave Cleveland for Miami in 2010 has set the NBA down a dangerous path. With players jumping from team to team, fans have grown more accustomed to rooting for individual players rather than organizations. Teams are in constant fear of their stars demanding a trade or leaving in free agency.
There are others that enjoy the freedom that players have. After all, super teams do make for quality television.
Whichever side you fall on, one thing is clear — 11 years ago today, LeBron James changed the NBA.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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