“The Decision” One Year Later — How LeBron and the Miami Heat Became Public Enemy No. One
It was on this day one year ago that LeBron James made his infamous announcement on an ESPN one-hour special, “The Decision” that he would be leaving his hometown to join Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat. In what was probably the greatest free agent class the NBA has ever seen, headlining names like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Joe Johnson, it was hard not to get swept up in frenzy. On July 8, 2010 die-hard fans and casual ones alike clung to James’ every word. Sportswriters and sport talk radio hosts littered the sports stratosphere for weeks with evidence as to why he would stay in Cleveland or leave, but it was all pure speculation.
The moment of truth came when John Kerfoot asked him the question of the century, “LeBron, what’s your decision?” The superstar responded by dropping a bombshell on the sports universe; “This fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.” At that very moment, a universally loved NBA icon (a rarity in professional sports) became one of the most despised figures in basketball.
It wasn’t the fact that he decided to abandon his hometown and former team to pursue a championship with two other great players, but HOW he did it. Players leave via free agency all the time, and to be quite honest, I had no problem with the King’s decision. What I do have a problem with, is the way he arrogantly organized a one-hour broadcast on ESPN, and literally milked fifty minutes of the show before making an announcement that took less than ten seconds. As much as I dislike Kobe I will say this; he would never have made this big a spectacle out of something like this had he been in LeBron’s shoes.
As if the newly formed Southbeach Super Trio didn’t already give the league enough reason to hate them, they painted a giant target on their backs when they hosted a rock concert-like show a few nights after the signings were made official. During the event incumbent Miami star Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh came on stage in full uniform with music pumping, strobe lights flashing, and a laser-light show. Equipped with microphones, the crown jewels of the Heat organization took time to publicly pat themselves (and the front office) on the back, and essentially declared themselves world champions before they even held a practice. In a sound-byte that was probably played thousands of times during the 2010-2011 NBA season, LeBron was heard saying that the Heat are capable of winning “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” (you get the picture). Message to the King: why don’t you start by winning one, before you talk about multiple titles.
While this team obviously has some kinks in its roster, there is little doubt in my mind that they are capable of winning a title. When one looks at the amount of talent they have on that team, we almost have to accept that one day they will be presented the Larry O’brien trophy by Commissioner David Stern.
Initially NBA fans got what they wanted; the Heat dropped eight of their first 17 games, and there was much speculation that Pat Riley may take over for Erik Spoelstra. It was a roller-coaster season with Miami enduring bad publicity after a series of incidents. A specific one took place in Dallas, during a preview of the NBA Finals. Erik Spoelstra called a timeout, and LeBron obviously wasn’t happy with the way the coach was calling the game. He let him know, by bumping into him on the way to the bench. The media also released another story during the season that several Heat players cried in the locker room after a tough loss. And let’s not forget James’ mother, Gloria who was arrested for disorderly intoxication and battery after assaulting a valet in Miami. And finally, one of the most notable incidents; after the Los Angeles Lakers thrashed his former team by 55 points, LeBron James released a tweet that read “Crazy. Karma is a b****..Get['s] you every time. It['s] not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!” Clearly, taking a shot at his former club, it showed that James had some leftover emotions from receiving backlash from the city of Cleveland.
Miami finished the season as the number two seed in the Eastern Conference behind Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls. In the playoffs they bowled over the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls en route to the 2011 NBA Finals. As we all know, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Heat in six games, silencing one of the most over-hyped teams in NBA history.
When it’s all said and done, the fact of the matter is, LeBron James is one of the most polarizing figures, not just in the NBA but in sports worldwide. He was generally adored by people, and dubbed the “Chosen one” by his fans in Cleveland, who had hoped he would bring them a title. LeBron had a chance to do something heroic last summer, and announce to the world that he would stay in his hometown and deliver on his promise. And like I said earlier, I have no problem with him “skipping out” on them. He was a free agent, and he made a choice that best suited him and his family. That is his right as a player. But the events that followed during his tenure with the Miami Heat such as “The Decision”, a concert, a Nike commercial titled “What Should I Do?”, in which LeBron calls out his haters, and several other displays of arrogance and outright betrayal, I found that the King’s stock slipped in my book. I once held him to a high regard, but I guess that has changed in the past year. To me, and the rest of the world (not including Miami), LeBron James, his two sidekicks, and the Miami Heat have become Public enemy number one.
A native of Wellesley, Massachusetts, Aashish is a lifelong fan of the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics. He graduated Wellesley High School in 2008, and is currently a senior at the University at Buffalo in Amherst, New York. You can follow him on Twitter @aashish1989.