However, a year ago today, one decision still reverberates loudly in the sports world: the infamous decision by NBA superstar LeBron James to “take his talents to South Beach” and play for the Miami Heat.
James dragged the media and fans through a circus until appearing in an ESPN special with Jim Gray known simply as “The Decision.”
Rather than just stating which team he’d play for and ending the hoopla there, James sat with Gray for an hour discussing his free agency period. Finally, James — known as “King James” — announced that he would play for the Heat.
Instantaneously, James went from being a renowned hero to one of the most hated athletes in all of sports, especially among Cleveland Cavaliers fans. James grew up in Ohio and spent the first seven years of his career with the Cavs before becoming a free agent before the 2010-2011 season.
Cleveland fans burned James jerseys and rioted in the streets. They viewed James as a traitor, since James claimed that he had a better shot at winning with the Heat.
Meanwhile, the Heat organized a memorable pep rally that further placed the King on a pedestal. The team paraded James as well as the team’s two other free agent signings—Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh—before a packed house at Miami’s American Airlines Arena.
James will always be remembered as saying that the Heat will win countless championships with these three players assembled.
The Heat came close this season but fell in six games to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. Scores of fans—even non-Dallas fans—supported the Mavericks in their quest to dethrone the King.
As a result of “The Decision,” James has become as hated an athlete as Kobe Bryant, and the Heat have become synonymous with the New York Yankees — The Evil Empire. The fans of those teams absolutely love them, but everyone else can’t stand them.
If there is an NBA season this fall, James and the Heat will return to their post as “the bad guys” of the league, with memories of “The Decision” still lingering.