It was the “decision” heard ‘round the world. On July 8th 2010, shortly after 9:30 pm live on ESPN, NBA superstar LeBron James (arguably the most coveted free agent in sports history) changed the landscape of professional basketball with 10 words: “This fall I’m gonna take my talents to South Beach.”
Never mind that LeBron mentioned an area of Miami and not the city itself (possibly the real reason he chose the Heat), just like that James was no longer a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, his hometown team, the team that drafted him number one overall in the 2003 NBA draft.
Just like that James, whose image was on par with Yankees captain Derek Jeter (the squeaky clean variety), became a pariah. Cleveland fans ripped LeBron jerseys off their person and burned them in disgust much to the nationally televised horror of “King James”. The name-calling was relentless utilizing Nike slogans (“Quitness”), his government name (“LeBum”), and his own royal self-proclaimed nickname (“Queen James”).
While Cleveland fans were the only people who really had a right to be upset at LeBron, New York Knicks fans (who swore he would choose the team since the venue of his announcement was in Connecticut), who cheered him every time he stepped foot in The Garden during the 2009-2010 season, piled on the insults as well.
Hall of Fame players took subtle shots at LeBron (Michael Jordan) and direct bullets (Charles Barkley) questioning his leadership ability and his place as an all-time great.
While the Heat would advance to the NBA Finals in LeBron’s first year with the team, they fell short of the ultimate goal, losing to the Dallas Mavericks.