LeBron James put the NBA on notice Thursday night, joining Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
James announced on ESPN around 9:30 p.m. ET that he was committing to the Heat, forming a superstar trio that matches any other in the NBA.
The Akron-born James left the Cleveland Cavaliers after spending the first seven years of his career with his hometown club. He was the No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft.
James wasted no time in making a prediction: "We're going to be a real good team."
James, Bosh and Wade entered the pros in the same year, the respective Nos. 1, 4 and 5 picks in the 2003 draft. They went their separate ways: James to Cleveland, Bosh to Toronto and Wade to Miami, where he won a championship partnered with center Shaquille O’Neal(notes) in 2006. That year, James, Bosh and Wade all signed matching contracts to make sure they were all unrestricted free agents at the same time.
Season-ticket sales for the Heat’s coming 41-game season were suspended Thursday afternoon after the entire supply of available seats were sold out. Not every seat has been released for sale yet and some will be held back for single-game purchases at the 19,600-capacity arena.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said while attending a tournament of high school stars at Cleveland State University, co-sponsored by James and Nike, one of the 25-year-old’s corporate partners.
The Cavaliers, a franchise that was in ruins before winning a lottery drawing and bringing James up Interstate 77 from his Akron home, have had the upper hand - until now. They were able to offer him more money - $30 million more - than any other team.
This wasn’t about money, though.
Wade and Bosh both said they would take fewer dollars to make this happen. And that, combined with what Riley and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said to James on the recruiting tour, was enough to pull off the stunner.
Because they have overspent while trying to please James and win the first title by any of Cleveland’s three pro sports teams since 1964, the Cavs are strapped with a few big contracts that have eaten up salary-cap space and prevented them from making roster moves to improve the team.
They’ve come close to winning it all with James, who at 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds has the quickness of a point guard and brute force of an NFL defensive lineman.
With the possible exception of Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant(notes), James is the NBA’s premier player, but his legacy cannot be fulfilled until he wins a championship.
If it’s going to happen soon, it’ll happen in Miami.