LeBron’s Decision, Ten Years Later and The Ripple Effect

By Marc Livitz

It’s hard to even fathom of anyone who is satisfied with the current state of 2020, save for the corporate Joe schmoes who’ve profited well into the Bull zone by way of laissez faire policies which allow sellers on their respective websites to sell high. We are well aware of this. Much of the world as we know it in regards to our everyday lives has slowed to a snail’s pace. Gyms were rightfully shut down and in moved the capitalists who, fairly so were all too eager to take advantage of those who needed fitness equipment at home. Most of us couldn’t imagine paying $1,000 for a pair of dial-up weights, but enough of that and in to the trash bin goes much of year one of the “Coughing 20’s”.

Think back, if you will to the summer of 2010 and most notably so, as an NBA fan. “The Chosen One”, LeBron James had seen out his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and was set to become a free agent. As the time on the Jumbotron clock inside the TD Garden in Boston melted down to zero, sports fans were left with the feeling that “King James” may have played his last game with the Cavs. His team choked away a 2-1 series lead against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals and had done so in dreadful fashion, complete with a blowout loss on their home floor in the ever-important game five of a tied series.

Game six in Bean Town saw the Cavs score only 36 points in the second half. As LeBron walked off the court and towards the visiting team locker room, ESPN announcer Mike Breen audibly wondered as we saw him strip off his Cleveland jersey if it would be the last time we’d see him do so. This was on May 13, 2010.

We got the answer on July 8 in a televised TV special on ESPN entitled “The Decision”. When we finally got the meat and potatoes of the telecast, which took place at the Boys & Girls Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, Jim Gray, at long last asked, “LeBron, what’s your decision?” Of course, James replied, “This Fall, I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.” There were celebrities in the crowd and reactions galore around the globe. On one side, the Miami Heat instantly became contenders, as LeBron would be paring up with Dwyane Wade as well as Chris Bosh, who the team was also able to sign. The party was on in Miami, as just a few days after the announcement, the mighty trio were showcased at an open gala at the American Airlines Arena where LeBron declared that the number of championships they’d bring to South Beach would be, “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven”.

The gamble paid off, as attendance totals at Heat home games went from 15th in the NBA in 2009 to 5th the following season. James gladly wore the villain’s hat, even though he’d done nothing wrong. Sports sometimes has a way of turning common sense into brash sensitivities and the business side of the trade becomes public enemy #1. The Miami experiment brought four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals with two championship trophies in years two and three, respectively.

On the whole, the idea of pairing up with your old friends and gunning for a “chip” is all fine and well, but it doesn’t garner much shine over the test of time and flies in the face of what many consider to be the heart of competition. Ultimately, LeBron would return to Cleveland in 2014, after the Cavs had shamelessly tanked to rebuild their squad in his absence.

They’d get the first pick in three of the four draft classes and cleared enough space and made enough trades to bring him back. We won’t soon forget how the Cavs made NBA history in 2016 when they overcame a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors to end a fifty year sports championship drought in Cleveland. The city sometimes known as “The Mistake on the Lake” finally had their day after so much heartbreak across the spectrum of basketball, football and baseball.

As for the trend LeBron set with his move to Miami, it had a ripple effect across the league. The idea of playing with your buddies as opposed to competing against them became and still seems to be the norm. We’ve heard from many how they feel as though Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, just to name a few, wouldn’t have thought of making such a move. They saw each other as a marker of success or a goal to surpass. Friendship was optional and it usually took place at arm’s length. Much of the action of today’s game, irrespective of the shutdown due to the coronavirus, has made the NBA unwatchable to some, not only for the ticky-tack fouls and the flopping, but for the lack of parity as well.

Teams are now built to win with specific sides in mind and the hardcore, longtime fan is ultimately priced out of the action by way of pale faced extortion schemes such as personal seat licensing and helping pay back the money spent on TV rights for the league. That’s why ticket prices are where they are. You’re not paying the athlete’s salary when you pass through the turnstiles. Boxing is different and it has a completely opposite business model, at least it does most of the time.

As far as lack of parity, I can at least acknowledge this fact: shortly after the Cavaliers were eliminated in six games by Boston in 2010, we got a Lakers Vs Celtics matchup in the Finals. I’d never get sick of seeing that.

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