The Day After

He looks snarky, doesn't he?

If you had told me a week ago that LeBron James would’ve abandoned the city of Cleveland for South Beach, I probably wouldn’t have taken you seriously. Yeah, I didn’t think LeBron would stay with the Cavaliers. And sure, I knew that the Heat were courting the King, but I was too distracted by D-Wade’s free agency. And even when Wade did announce his intent to stay in Miami, and buzz around LeBron built up, I wrote that I didn’t think he would end up in Miami.

Turns out, I was wrong.

I kind of figured that out yesterday when ESPN’s sources began reporting that LeBron was heading to the Heat. James’ choice went from the best-kept secret in sports to the worst-kept one overnight. I was far from pleased with this development, though. I’ve never been a fan of LeBron: he always seemed selfish, egotistical, and unsportsmanlike. Maybe it was already his personality or the media hype influenced him, but LeBron carries himself with a “holier-than-thou” attitude. After all, he’s the “Chosen One”.

With Bosh and Wade, I didn’t see Pat Riley and the Heat needing another top player. Besides, I didn’t think Miami would be appealing to LeBron. Sure, he could play ball with a couple of Olympic buddies. But why wouldn’t he want to build a team in Cleveland (or another city) around himself, instead of fitting into Miami’s puzzle? And what does that say about his competitive edge? Plus, he’d be second-fiddle to Wade. I know LeBron is the back-to-back league MVP, but go ahead and ask A-Rod who’s the fan favorite in the Bronx. Wade essentially owns Miami, and that’s why he was the Heat’s first priority, not LeBron, thank you very much. (Unless you buy into those rumors of collusion, in which case Wade is at least equally as important as James.)

All this brings us to Thursday night. Being the King and all, James couldn’t sit down for a regular interview or- God forbid- have a press release. No, he had to have a one-hour ESPN special trainwreck, “The Decision”, to publicly break the hearts of all but one team. If free agency wasn’t already a media spectacle, this special sealed the deal. In the words of the ridiculously (and perhaps justifiably) bitter Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, it was a “several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up”. (The fact that the proceeds from the commercial spots went to the Boys & Girls Club is extraneous to me. He could’ve helped out the foundation without turning everything into a three-ring circus.)

After leading us on for a good twenty, thirty minutes, LeBron James finally announced “The Decision”- South Beach. Of course, South Florida erupted as if we just won the NBA Championship. (Not even close to a done deal, by the way.) I can’t say the rest of the country feels the same jubilation, or even the rest of Florida. (I can’t wait for a renewed intensity in the Magic-Heat rivalry, by the way.) While I never wanted to be a “witness”, I now have put aside my dislike for LeBron and root for my hometown team. And trust me, it’s hard not to get caught up in all this excitement about the Heat- there’s no escape from this party.

I’m very cautiously optimistic about this team, solely because I’m not sure LeBron will be able to put aside his ego and accept not being number one. Of course, I hope I’m proven wrong. There’s no feeling in the world like watching your team bring home a championship.

No matter what happens with Wade & Co., the free agency frenzy and “The Decision” will be remembered as turning points in NBA, sports, and media history. We’ve never seen anything like this before, and we’ve only just started seeing the repercussions. Plenty of things will be written in the coming days, weeks, maybe even years about how this shaped the league, LeBron’s legacy, Riley’s legacy, the city of Cleveland, basketball in New York, and so on. Let’s just hope this turns out to be something positive not only for Miami, but for the NBA and the rest of sports.

~ Sarah