By Drew Hammell
After finishing his seventh season in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James had a critical decision to make in 2010. For the past seven years, James carried his hometown Cavs on his back, game in and game out. And for seven years, James and the Cavs came up short in terms of bringing home a title.
As an unrestricted free agent, James had the opportunity to pick whichever team he wanted to play for. The pressure to win his first ring was mounting, and James realized it was time for a change.
So, on July 8th, 2010, a nervous twenty-five-year-old LeBron sat across from ESPN sportscaster Jim Gray at the Boys & Girls Club in Greenwich, Connecticut to announce his decision in a 75-minute TV special.
“Um, in this fall – man, this, this is very tough. Um, in this fall, I’m gonna take my talents to South Beach, and um, join the Miami Heat,” stammered James.
With that awkward, shaky statement, the basketball world was rocked, and sent hurtling in a new direction.
Nobody was a surer bet to help a team make it to the NBA Finals than LeBron James. After seven years in the NBA, ‘The Chosen One” had become a two-time MVP and a six-time All-Star. In Miami, Dwyane Wade was already the centerpiece. The Heat also signed power forward Chris Bosh from the Toronto Raptors. Adding James would make the Heat unstoppable.
The following night, the new trio would hold a rally in the Miami Heat arena in front of 13,000 ecstatic fans. If LeBron wasn’t a villain after he announced he was leaving Cleveland, he definitely became one after the rally. James, Wade and Bosh basked in the glow of their glorious collaboration, and acted as if the titles were already won. LeBron would say so himself with one of the most arrogant statements he’s ever made: “Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…”
The bragging would end the next season, however, as Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks shocked the Heat in the Finals. LeBron would eventually capture his first ring, of course. In the strike-shortened 2011-2012 season, the Heat would take down Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games.
James would win one more ring with the Heat, but then fall short again against the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. He would redeem himself that summer by going back home to play with the Cavs, and he helped them win their first ever championship in 2016 against the Warriors in dramatic fashion by overcoming a 3-1 deficit.
Looking back, “The Decision” LeBron made had a ripple effect around the League. Other players would begin thinking about creating a Big 3, but former Commissioner David Stern didn’t like the idea of super teams. He vetoed a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers to join forces with an aging Kobe Bryant in 2011. Bryant, one title short of tying his idol Michael Jordan, wouldn’t win another one.
The same summer as The Decision in 2010, Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant resigned with the Thunder with very little fanfare, and was dubbed the anti-LeBron. But six years later, after LeBron was winning rings and Durant wasn’t, KD joined his own super team in Golden State.
The number seven is known to represent completion or totality. With that being the case, LeBron James has now finished two seven-year terms in the NBA. His first seven years represent the young, fresh, but frustrating part of his career.
The past seven years have brought about flourishing, but also more frustration. What will the next seven hold? If the trend continues, LeBron will be sure to reach the Finals a few more times, whether he stays in Cleveland or heads somewhere else. And if he meets whoever will inevitably be dubbed “the next LeBron,” hopefully he’ll encourage him only to throw a rally after he wins a ring.
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