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Windhorst: LeBron James was headed to Miami for years

Jul 11, 2010, 11:30 AM EST

Brian Windhorst was the MVP of sports media from the time the NBA season ended, right up through the first two weeks of July (and going strong). The beat reporter for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer has been following LeBron James since he was in puberty, following the prolific modern athlete through high school, his decision to go pro, his drafting by the Cavs, his early development, the first time the Cavs made the playoffs, their run to the Finals, and their subsequent repeated heartbreaks. 

He was caught off guard by how quickly James’ demeanor changed once free agency started. He followed the process, all the while being open and honest about the information he received from his sources. And now, with the star-athlete he’s followed for a decade having abandoned his home state, Windhorst has laid out how this all went down. 
And it’s not pretty. 
Saturday, Windhorst released an article for the Plain-Dealer outlining the exact process from 2006 in the World Championships in Japan to signing-day on Friday in Miami, how the Heat were able to put together a team of three superstars. 
Just in case you’re finding it hard to come up with reasons to click through, here are a few gems:
  • Team USA played a huge part in this, as their experiences being together, playing together, and talking were what first brought the idea to them. 
  • The Knicks were primarily the ones who planted the possibility in Riley’s head and laid out the path to creating the cap room necessarily to pull this off. 
  • Riley set up a meeting between James and Michael Jordan last November, and talked about how modern players should “pay homage to Jordan.” That was the same night James announced he was switching jersey numbers out of respect. Riley had influence, as much as nine months ago. 
  • Wade went to meet with James and Bosh the last week of June to sell them on this idea. That would be the week before free agency started, when Wade was still a member of the Miami Heat, basically recruiting them to come to his team. The word you’re looking for is tampering. 
  • Most interesting from that visit, Windhorst reports that Wade was discouraged from making this pitch by Commissioner David Stern. With the way things have gone down, there has to be discussion of whether or not we’ll be seeing tampering charges brought upon the Heat. 
  • James was offered the same preferential treatment for him and his friends that he was given in Cleveland, so you can expect the same kind of crony-ism to continue. 
  • Windhorst also reports on why the Bulls and Knicks didn’t land James, which are predictable but still interesting. 
For Cleveland fans, it just adds to the feeling of being duped by James and drives the dagger deeper (at this point, the handle’s pretty much inside their heart, much less the blade). For the rest of the world, it shows that these three were serious from the beginning, about controlling their own fate, and manipulating events to bring about what they wanted, the chance to play together. 
A good old fashioned conspiracy. Even in the modern era. 
140 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. tony - Jul 11, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    It is not against the rules for players to talk/recruit each other at any point. Basically, players are not in trouble of tampering. If Riley or some other person with management of the Heat did it, yes, it is, but players cannot be guilty of tampering. Doesn’t change the BS that went down and there is enough there to drive home the point without adding on incorrect information.

  2. Reldan - Jul 11, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    Wow, do you know anything about tampering?? Players are forbidden from trying to recruit players during the regular season, per league rules. Check your facts before posting.

  3. Reldan - Jul 11, 2010 at 12:21 PM

    To further my point, from the NBA: “Tampering is when a player or team directly or indirectly entices, induces or persuades anybody (player, general manager, etc.) who is under contract with another team to negotiate for their services.”

  4. trest - Jul 11, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    Wow, so Cuban and Kerr get fined mightily for providing obvious answers to direct questions, yet Stern will likely look the other way at this? Cubes should ask for his money back. Maybe Stern was too busy continuously quashing Tim Donehey’s information to notice that players were trying to upend the competitive balance in the NBA.
    The NBA is a joke. It’s getting harder and harder to take it seriously. What does football start?

  5. LeCheater? - Jul 11, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    So,…how different is this from WWE? I mean, clearly LeBron quit in the playoffs in order to have more leverage to leave. How is that different than a “fixed” game. Did LeBron have ANY friends or “associates” bet against the Cavaliers? There dsfinitely needs to be an investigation because the integrity of the game is now in question. Dan Gilbert said there was more to this story. David Stern should ruin the little party by charging the Heat with tampering and let LeFraud sign as a free agent ANYWHERE but Miami…

  6. MagicMan - Jul 11, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    So where does the Delonte West/LaBron’s momma fling enter into this and why isn’t anyone speaking about this as a possible reason why LaBron left the Cavs.

  7. LeFool - Jul 11, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    It’s one of the reasons why he rejected New York, the media there were all over the story, and it annoyed him. ESPN, predictably, did not even mention it (Cowherd did and got in trouble for it), much like they ignored the Big Ben stuff last year. My guess is that they did not want to risk losing the special announcing the decision (which had been planned for at least a month).
    Yeah, you don’t suddenly wake up the morning of a televised event and immediately decide to throw away max money and the best record in the league for the last two years to play with your friends on a team that was the fifth seed in the East. There’s a case here.

  8. VIN - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    CAN YOU SAY .BENIDICT ARNOLD,!!!!! LEBRON MARK MY WORDS YOU WILL REGRET WHAT YOU DID TO CLEVELAND …. WE ARE NOW FINDING OUT NOTHING WAS WRONG WITH YOUR ELBOW .THIS WAS A PLOY… ALSO WE FIND OUT IF YOU WERE TO BEAT BOSTON AND L.A AND WIN THE TITLE YOU WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO LEAVE AND SIGN ANOTHER 7 YEAR CONTRACT WITH THE CAVS . YOU KNEW ALL ALONG YOU WERE LEAVING AND YOU FAKED A INJURY TO MAKE SURE YOU COULD LEAVE . YOU ALSO DUPED THE OTHER TEAMS WITH THIS FARCE KNOWING YOU WERE LEAVING.. AS CHRIS BOSH LET IT SLIP OUT HIS MOUTH YOU WERE PLANNING TO DO THIS ALL ALONG …SOON THE THE WHOLE WORLD WILL KNOW THE REAL LEBRON !KARMA IS A BITCH!!

  9. antiochcat - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    It seems to me that ‘The Market’ only works as a concept if people agree with it. When corporations create cabals to enhance their bottom line, people seem to turn a blind eye, despite the fact that includes the loss of jobs, the death of cities, the move of jobs offshore, and lining of corporate pockets at the expense of the taxpayer. When athletes do it, suddenly everybody’s upset. Well, you can’t have it both ways. D’Wayne, James, and Bosh recognized their potential years ago and recognized the leverage they would have if they pooled their resources in a way and worked their contracts so that at this point in time, they would have the leverage and be able to control their destinies. If you’re a market capitalist, you should be saying ‘Good on ya’!’ Instead, you’re bitching and moaning about LeBron stabbing Cleveland in the heart. Where’s the same whining about GM doing that to Detroit? Or Ford? Or what Fiorina did to California when she was CEO of HP?

  10. John Victor - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    I do not understand all of the scresming and yelling going on.LeBron made the decision he wanted (end of story). Cleveland is naive if they thought his return was (excuse me) a slam dunk.LaBron wanted to play with Wade and possibly Bosh and hope for a try for a dynasty. End of story.Why are there so many crybabys?

  11. Darren - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    People get a life and get over it. I’ve have never been a huge LeBron fan to start with, but listening to all the crap coming out of Cleveland the last few days, makes one want to become one. The man was a FREE AGENT, he didnt break his contract, he didn’t not show up for work, hell he didnt want to play for Cleveland anymore. Ther hypocrisy Cleveland fans and their owner show is ridiculous. Its like saying you have been working for Best Buy for 7 years, and if Apple or Microsoft offer you a better opportunity, you would turn it down out of loyalty to Best buy. Give me a damn break. I dont remember Orlando whining for days when Shaq left for LA, or Minnesota slitting their wrists when KG went to Boston.

  12. Dubious - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    Man, this story reads like a bunch of assumptions, logic jumps, and conjecture mixed together and sprinkled with facts. There’s no basis for believing half this stuff is true. It could be or it could be sour grapes:
    1. “The Knicks were primarily the ones who planted the possibility in Riley’s head and laid out the path to creating the cap room necessarily to pull this off.” First I’ve heard of this. Riley was known to be doing this for years, didn’t hear about the Knicks doing it until they started dumping players a year ago. And the idea here is they started earlier, continued the plan improbably over the course of several different managements, and couldn’t get 2/3rd’s of what Riley got done in more time than it took Riley?
    2. “Wade went to meet with James and Bosh the last week of June to sell them on this idea.” Is this confirmed? How?
    3. “Most interesting from that visit, Windhorst reports that Wade was discouraged from making this pitch by Commissioner David Stern.” Confirmed? How?
    He also goes on in the article to confirm that LBJ tried to get Bosh to come to CLE. That sort of contradicts everything else in the story. At the very least it seems clear that if that is true, then Miami Thrice wasn’t a done deal as recently as 2 weeks ago, much less months or years ago.

  13. Hello? Victor... - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    It’s collusion and tampering! LeBron throwing playoff games is the same as the gambling/cheating ref who went to jail for it…
    This goes much deeper than “a guy who wants to play with his buddies.” The authorities need to see if wagers were made against Cleveland during the Boston series by LeFraud’s “associates.”

  14. David - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    A couple of torn ACL’s and an MCL thrown in is how this story should end.

  15. Darren - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    I guess the other 10 players who couldnt hit the side of the barn in the series, or guard a rock, were throwing the games too? I’m curious if Wade would have chose to leave Miami and play in Cleveland with leBron, would Cleveland fans be calling him everything under the son for leaving Miami! Hmmmmm?

  16. Tom - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    The show “The Decision” was a mistake by Lebron and he should have spoken with the Cavs directly when he made his decision. But the decision was his to make and the pull of playing on a great team with this kind of talent was too difficult to pass up. Cleveland should be thanking Lebron for the seven years he played in his home town. No one should be compelled to stay at home if they want to live and work elsewhere.

  17. Georgia Boy - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    LeBron goes to the NBA out of high school and succeeds beyond expectations.He transforms the Caveliers (and fulfills his duties). He continually improves himself. He handles himself like a gentleman on and off the court. He is well spoken, gives to charity, has a great home life, and generally handles himself admirably.
    Give him a break.

  18. chili22 - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    This is so much nonsense. Lebron threw the series against Boston? Did Orlando also throw their series? Did the Lakers deliberately allow Boston to come within minutes of winning the title? How about just looking at the obvious: Cleveland never had a good enough team around Lebron to win a title. Boston played great and beat them, just like Orlando did the year before. Lebron was sick of losing and having to carry the weight of an entire city on his back. It’s pretty simple.

  19. Victor - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    Darren
    The Cleveland fans would still be in the streets and thanking Wade for his great decision and insight.

  20. The Dude - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    The NBA can’t really do anything about this, because hard evidence there was tampering between players is near impossible. The NBA isn’t going to start a precedent where they have to file tampering charges every time players hangout. OMG Lebron was at Carmelo’s wedding, so he must have been there to recruit him to join the Heat. Its just impossible to enforce, that’s why the NFL has no rules against players tampering other players.

  21. VINNIE - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    FROM THIS CRYBABY FROM CLEVELAND . IT HAS TO DO WITH RESPECT VICTOR .. YES HE HAD EVERY RIGHT TO LEAVE NO QUESTION . THE ISSUE IS HE DIDNT HAVE THE BALLS TO TELL HIS BOSS THAT HES LEAVING TILL RIGHT BEFORE HE WENT ON ESPN ..AND HE HAD SOMELSE TELL HIM …………..IF YOU WORKED FOR A BOSS THAT GAVE YOUR EVERY WISH DONT YOU TNINK YOU AT LEAST OWE HIM AT LEAST A CALL ?? REVERSE IT IF YOU WERE HIS BOSS AND HAD GAVE HIM EVERYTHING AND DOES NOT EVEN TELL YOU HOW WOULD YOU FEEL ??? . BETRAYED??? LEBRON COULD HAVE ANNONCED IT JUST LIKE OTHER FREE AGENTS BUT MR BIGGER THAN LIFE HAD TO HAVE HIS OWN SPECIAL TO DIG THE KNIFE IN!!!!!!!

  22. Spotts1701 - Jul 11, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    Seriously? Are you for real?
    I’m not an extreme NBA fan, and I can tell from distance that this stinks to high heaven. There is plenty of evidence out there that the Cavs handed over quite a bit of authority to LeBron, to the point that he had veto power over personnel moves.
    If LeBron was really the “gentleman” you claim him to be, he would NOT have done the hour-long PR stunt. He would have gone to his “employer” in person and said “I’m sorry, but I have a better offer and I’m going to go elsewhere.” He wouldn’t have burned bridges like this.
    Maybe MJ would have done the same thing. Maybe not. But really, if you’re “The Man” (and all three of these guys were “The Man” in the respective cities) why would you want to take a downgrade to “Sidekick”? Someone’s going to take that demotion, and it ain’t gonna be D-Wade. The Heat are HIS team.

  23. Anonymous - Jul 11, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    I agree that he should have told his boss in person or with a call beforhand. No argument from me on that.

  24. The Dude - Jul 11, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    There have been countless times in sports where athletes aren’t even call they’re being traded until after the trade goes down. People should realize by now every sport is also a business. Gilbert and the Cavs failed to put a championship team together and now they’re paying the price.

  25. reasonable - Jul 11, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    Perhaps there is one thing that LeBron might have considered and done differently. That would have been to at least give Cleveland a “heads up” in time to make a pitch to the other heavy hitters, who were consumed by their Eastern Conference competitors. Short of that it does not matter how he escaped to freedom, it is, as has been repeatedly stated “just business”.

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