Heading into last night's one-hour Lebronathon, I was fairly certain "The Decision" would be a massive letdown.
I wanted to hear James say New York, or New Jersey, or Chicago, or even LA...basically anywhere but Cleveland. Not that I have anything against Cleveland, I just didn't want the last two weeks (or two months, or actually two years) of free agent hype, along with the enormous amount of time I invested in following it, to be all for nothing. I needed change to make it worth while and even with Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer and closer to home, Chris Bosh, already having changed addresses this summer, Lebron was really what this whole ordeal was all about.
Despite the fact that a strong rumour emerged Thursday morning forecasting James joining the Miami Heat, I fully expected Lebron to say he loved the entire process and that he had a lot of great meetings with a bunch of teams that all provided tremendous opportunities, but ultimately, he had to stay home in Cleveland. Just had to. I mean, who goes on TV to murder a cities sports fans? (Besides Brian Burke of course.) If he was really going to leave, this certainly couldn't be the way he'd do it, right?
Then Lebron confirmed that the next chapter in his life would be based from Miami. I couldn't believe it. He actually left Cleveland.
Looking back, it really shouldn't have been that shocking. James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh all signed short contract extensions back in 2007 when they hit restricted free agency. Over the last few years speculation grew that the group had grown tight while playing for the US national team and dreamed of being on the same NBA team. Then everyone's favourite rational NBA analyst Steven A. Smith stated at the start of the free agency period that the "Lebron/Wade/Bosh trio would all sign in Miami, it's done." The three reportedly had dinner together in Miami last weekend.
On Tuesday word leaked that the Raptors and Cavs had reached an agreement on a sign-and-trade scenario that would see Bosh join Lebron in Cleveland, pending Bosh's approval. Fans were told Lebron was encouraging Bosh to join him in Cleveland, but Bosh quickly squashed the idea and voila: instant alibi. Lebron wanted to stay, he really did, but how could he say no to Wade and Bosh in one city?
After Stoudemire signed in New York and Boozer in Chicago in recent days, both players openly tried to recruit Lebron to their new teams. Yet when Wade and Bosh were asked about Lebron during their joint announcement on Wednesday, the pair clammed up for the first time in two weeks.
It seems so obvious now, and the entire charade briefly had me upset. I thought about all the time I wasted chasing my tail, reading every tweet as if it were headline news. I wondered if the new big three might possibly become the biggest villains in sport?
But then I remembered all three genuinely seem like nice guys, and they all smile so much, and they're all so damn good that it would be nearly impossible to hate them. Hell, they might play 50 games on national television next year (every Thursday night on TNT and Sunday afternoon on ABC right?), and it will be absolutely fascinating to watch.
And if you don't think Pat Riley's Blackberry absolutely blew up Thursday night from the stampede of calls and texts sent his direction from veteran unrestricted free agents offering their services for the league minimum in salary, well, ahhh, you're wrong. Dead wrong.
The pressure on this team to win, after they fill out the rest of the roster (do you think Shaq is already in Miami or still en route?), will be like nothing we've ever seen. They're going to have to be like Tiger Woods in 2000 for 100 nights a year. I can't wait to see what happens.