In 2010, LeBron James uttered 14 dreaded words that broke the hearts of fans in Cleveland: “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
Drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2003 NBA Draft, James, a native of Akron, Ohio was a breath of fresh air for the hometown Cleveland faithful.
James would eventually return back to Cleveland in 2014 and helped win the city of NBA Finals Championship in 2016. Prior to that win, Cleveland had not won a championship in major professional sports since the Cleveland Browns won an NFL Championship in 1964.
Cavaliers team owner, Dan Gilbert, vented his own frustration by writing a scathing letter and scoleded James by calling him a “self-proclaimed King.”
He even compared James to Benedict Arnold and assured Cavalier fans that Cleveland would win a championship before James would. A group of former fans even burned James’ jersey in effigy after his announcement.
James was the city’s hope. Those hopes vanished in 2010 when James bolted for Miami and formed a super team with fellow 2003 draftees, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
Led by Head Coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat made four NBA Finals appearances and won two NBA Finals.
In retropect, James’ choice made sense for legacy purposes.
“In sports, the organizations kind of decide what you do,” said Dwyane Wade at Complexcon at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center.
“So we took a page out of the notebook from the vets that came before us. The Oscar Robertson’s, Shaquille O’Neal’s of the worlds, the ones who controlled their own fate.”
Wade wasn’t highly touted as other draftees like Carmelo Anthony, James and Bosh. He grinded his way to the top.
A two-time NBA Champion and fifth pick in the 2003 NBA Draft out of Marquette, Wade got the world’s attention in the Heat’s first round playoff series against the New Orleans Hornets in 2004.
For those tardy to the party: With 1.3 seconds remaining and tied at 79 apiece, Wade hit Hornets point guard Baron Davis with an ankle breaker crossover and drove to the basket making a running jumper amid the outstretched arm of Hornets center Jamaal Magloire. The basket gave the Heat a 81-79 victory and Miami would end up winning the series in seven games.
Four years after winning the 2006 NBA Finals alongside Shaquille O’Neal against a Dirk-Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks, Wade and Heat team President, Pat Riley convinced LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join him in Miami.
“We decided to do it together,” reflected Wade.
“Our conversation in that locker room was: ‘Listen, we’re about us; in the power of the player’s hand.’ We knew that in 2010, as young men that we were gonna shift the culture. You guys see right now, in 2019, the players are doing whatever they want right now. I take pride, I know Bron and CB [Chris Bosh] do as well because we decided to do something, and there’s a lot of sacrifice that went into that. We decided to do something we wanted to do, and a lot of it came because in the NBA, they talked about ‘if you don’t win championships, you’re not considered great.’ When we first got there, so we’re like: ‘Okay we have to get these rings’ That’s what it was for us, we said we had to get these rings.”