This is a weekly feature we are going to put out every Friday. We are going to look back at something big in sport a game, a series, a tournament, a moment something of importance. We will take you through the event, the history, why it was important and what happened next. As usual any questions, or anything you think we should take a step back in time for Comment, Tweet or Email us.
Date – 8th July 2010
Location – Greenwich, Connecticut, USA
A summer evening, the Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich is full of fans and many more are outside. ESPN is broadcasting live, Lebron (King) James sits across from Jim Gray. One of the best basketball players on Planet Earth is going to announce his future in a live TV special. Nothing like this has ever been done before, the world was watching. The 75 minutes long TV special built up and at a 9.28 ET James announced his choice. “This fall… this is very tough… in this fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.” Why was this so important? We have to go back to go forward.
What can be said about Lebron James that hasn’t already been said? James was drafted first overall in 2003 by his hometown team the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his first game, he set the record or the most points in a single game for a player out of high school. Having a fantastic rookie season and running away with the voting for the Rookie of the Year vote James out the whole league on watch.
The accolades and stand out games kept coming for James. Getting his first All-Star appearance as a twenty-year-old, even at such a young age fellow coaches and the press knew what a star was going to be. With certain players, you can just see that they have that special something and Lebron had it. In 2006 he made his return to the All-Star game, this time finishing MVP as well as finishing second the MVP race for the whole league, behind Steve Nash. 2006 was also James’ first taste of the postseason, leading the Cav’s to the second round where they lost against the Pistons.
James wouldn’t have to wait long for another postseason run, in 2007 his Cavs side got to the Conference finals. In game 5, Lebron finished with 48 points, including scoring the winning layup with 2 seconds left on the clock. Marv Albert was calling the game and hailed it as “One of the greatest moments in postseason history” not many could argue with that. But James’ would again taste disappointment as the Cavs were swept 4-0 but the Spurs. In 2008, which remember was only his 5th season in the league Lebron became the Cavs highest points scorer of all time, passing Brad Daugherty in 100 fewer games. There was a hint of regular season regression about the Cavs though and they stumbled into the postseason, losing to the Celtics.
At the end of the 08/09 season, James had stamped his mark on the league. At this point, it was clear that he was the best all round baller in the league. He led the Cavs in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks, only the 4th man in history to do all of them in one season. Unsurprisingly, James became the league MVP, the first Cav ever to do so. ESPN called it the greatest individual season in history. This time, the Cavs would call in 6 games to the Orlando Magic. After the game was done, James left the floor without shaking hands with the opponents in a shocking lack of sportsmanship. This immediately caused many of the media outlets turned on James, believing his ego had gotten the better of him. There was also a feeling amongst some Cavs fans that James thought he was bigger than the team, with some starting to speak out.
09/10 was another stellar individual year to King James, even if he was forced to play point guard due to injuries to other players. This move was fruitful for him, getting this ball more his stats increased and he bagged another MVP award in the process. The following postseason, however, was a sign of just how sour things had gotten with Lebron and the Cavs faithful. Following a game 5 loss to the Celtics, the worst in team history, James was booed off the court. This led us to the summer of 2010, on July first the games best player was a Free Agent.
5 teams were courting the all-star, Cleveland, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, LA Clippers and the Miami Heat. Each had their merits, The Cavs gave James the chance to finish what he started. New York would have meant a chance to play in the biggest market in America. Chicago would have allowed him to take the torch from Michael Jordan as the next great superstar in basketball. LA bought fame and Fortune with it. Miami was in the process of building a star team. All of them could afford to break the bank to bring James on board.
ESPN pitched the idea of the special to James knowing how much media attention would be on him. Even then James was one of the hottest sports stars in the world, even if he wasn’t the loved media icon he is now. The event raised $3.5M for charity, as well as earning ESPN over $2M in revenue. In the days leading up to the announcement, Miami had announced the signing of Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade and were close to making a super team. Lebron was seen as the missing piece of the puzzle, the piece they now had.
So James went to the Heat and what happened next? ESPN gained 13.1 Million viewers for the show and it was a rating smash. The people of Cleveland, however, weren’t impressed and saw the move as a betrayal with the Cavs owner calling James a traitor in an open letter to fans. Michael Jordan wasn’t a fan of the move, saying he would rather James tried to win on his own than joining the super team in Miami. Not everyone was against the move, however, the New York Times saying that the behaviour of the fans and the Cavs organisation only showed why James was right to leave the city. However, James was voted the most disliked athlete in America, James himself has said he would probably do things a little differently.
As things started to unravel for the Cavs when James went on from strength to strength. The Heat were the ultimate heels, the whole league hated them and the big three. When Lebron returned home, be bagged 38 points and was booed every time he touched the ball. After 2 years of the Celtics ending James playoff hopes, this year he got his revenge. Sinking the winning basket to ensure the Heat won the series. Next was the Mavericks who were one step too far, Lebron getting the brunt of the criticism averaging only 3 points in 4th quarters. After having a reputation for being a clutch player, the fans and media had expected more.
Come the 11/12 season, James had brushed off the hatred and become the player he was running away with the MVP title. Come the postseason, with Chris Bosh out, James stepped up grabbing 40 points in a series-levelling game against the Pacers. James would go clutch again in the Conference finals against the Celtics, the Cavs were on the brink of elimination and James put up 45 points. The Heat and James would win the NBA Title, with James being named as the MVP, his playoff scoring one was voted the second best in modern history. More success would follow, the Heat would go on a 27 game winning streak the third longest in NBA history during the 12/13 season. This season would end with a meeting with the Spurs and the Heat would repeat, bring a second straight title back to South Beach. James would get a personal repeat as well, bring the scoring title back with him for the second straight year. His final season in Miami, despite breaking the franchise record most points in a game with 61, would end in disappointment with the Heat missing out on a three-peat.
On June 25th 2014, James opted out of his contract with the Heat and returned home. James had unfinished business with the Cavs, within a month the Cavs bought in Kevin Love and James, Love and young star Kyrie Irving formed a new Fab Three. The 14-15 season was better than even the most optimistic Cavs fan could have hoped for. The Fab Three turned the team around and dragged them to the playoffs. James became the first players since the 1960’s to play in five straight conference finals. They faced off against the Western Conference’s own super team the Golden State Warriors. Despite a loss to the Warriors, James played so well he was in serious contention to win the finals MVP. The 15-16 season was much the same, with the Cavs blasting the Eastern Conference away and setting up a rematch against the Warriors in the final. It went to a game 7 and Lebron went clutch with a Triple – Double in game seven helping the Cavs win. The Cavs became the first ever team from Cleaveland to win a professional sports title and James was hailed as a hero.
The next two seasons were a mixed bag, Lebron became more of a star off the court. Far away from the hated figure, he was after “The Decision”. He broke Michael Jordan’s record for the most career points in the postseason and cemented his place as the best in the game. Getting to the 2017 Finals for the third time against the Warriors, the Cavs couldn’t cross the line and the Warriors won the rubber series. Another run to The Finals would follow, as you can guess it was the Cavs against The Warriors again. Lebron put up 51 points in an overtime loss and injured his hand which would hamper him for the rest of the series, which was ultimately won by The Warriors.
What does the future hold? Well, James and joined The Lakers and will be the leader of the young team on the up. Plus Space Jam 2 (Mon-stars bugaloo) is on the horizon. Lebron is probably the most famous athlete in the world. It’s hard to see any of this happening if the “The Decision” never took place.
What do you think? Was it the right thing to do? Did Lebron choose the right team? Comment, Email or Tweet us @unlikelydanblog