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Windhorst: LeBron James was headed to Miami for years

Jul 11, 2010, 11:30 AM EDT

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. Larry Parker - Jul 11, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    I think the NBA was in on this from the start. They’re trying to get rid of their small market teams. This all because of economics. Even if Cleveland won a championship it would not bring much money to the NBA. The small market teams are a burden to the league, So if your low you got to go. You watch and see if the NBA doesn’t start downsizing next year. Why else would an angry Gilbert agree to a sign and trade. If he was really planning on winning a championship before his royal weasel does then he would put up obstructions to Riley making a super team. This nothing but collusion by the NBA,Riley, Gilbert and his royal weaselness. Cleveland fans don’t go to the games you won’t have a team in a couple of years. How about the London Cavaliers has a nice ring to it.

  2. Sibrina - Jul 11, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    You are a FOOL to wish a injury on a person because he chose to go and place elsewhere. To me Cleveland did not do there job of convincing him to stay there. I read most of you GUYS comments and some make since but the majority of yall are FOOLS. Get over it and tune in to ESPN and watch the HEAT next season. Phoenix lost Amare’ and they went to the market and found more talent.

  3. JBP - Jul 11, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    I’m not mad at LeBron for leaving Cleveland or not signing with the Knicks. I’m more upset with the fact that he was considered the top NBA icon and stooped to the 2nd tier player Scotty Pipen was to Michael Jordan. Scotty was a great player, but he was not MJ. MJ would not have left Chicago to play with Magic or Bird to win championships, then he would have become 2nd tier to Magic or Bird.
    You cannot go into a man’s home to be king of that mans’castle. To prove a point, during their introduction in Miami, Wade was the center piece. During the contract signing, Wade was wearing a 3 piece blak suit while LeBron and Boch was wearing cream jackets with black ties, again, Wade was the center piece. No matter how many championships they win, it will always be Wade’s championship team. No one can ever again put LeBron in the same level as Kobe, he has become a 2nd tier player as Pippenn,McCale,Worthy,Garnett,Monroe and etc. For you LeBron fans, Pat Riley hoodwinked LeBron and he fell for it. There’s a sucker born every minute and Lebron will be sucking on lolipops for 6 years.

  4. reasonable - Jul 11, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    Vinnie,Vinnie,Vinnie,
    I was born and raised in Cleveland and so my problem with this whole matter revolves around WHY isn’t the owner who calls his “former star” names, make allegations about character, and quitting, NOT JUMPING FOR JOY that this terrible player left. Shouldn’t he have been praying that some OTHER SUCKER owner got to get stuck with this unsavory ingrate. It is all too obvious that there was no benefit to keeping him around since he fixes games and only plays when he feels like it(60 plus wins in the last two seasons). I guess you do “get what you pay for”.

  5. Nathan - Jul 11, 2010 at 2:55 PM

    I am not a great fan of Lebron (I am a Wizards Fan), but what this guy and Bosh and Wade have done is commendable. In this commercial era, they are ready to take less money for championship is appreciable. I don’t know why everybody criticize Lebron for not being “THE MAN”. After all, basket ball is a team game and you need 8-9 players to win a game. Show me one team or one person who have won it for his team without any support. Kobe could not do it on his own, he needed gasol and bynum, fisher, Artest and Odom after all. Instead of pulling the players to his team, Lebron joined them. To me both are same. Atleast these guys have realized at their prime that they need each other to win. Kudos to them….

  6. Chase - Jul 11, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    Brian Windhorst get over the fact that in seven years all the Cavs could surround Lebron with was mediocre players. In one night the heat surrounded him with 2 all pro players. Dont worry JJ Hickson is a beast….well damn its Lebronakkah for the next 4.

  7. Lakers4Lyfe - Jul 11, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    Well, now we know why he quit against the Celtics. And don’t tell me he didn’t. I saw the declining stats and watched every game. It was clear. Now he can hang on Wade’s ballsack and never worry about being a team leader.

  8. sid - Jul 11, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    So other than that, how’s it going down there in Miami?

  9. question - Jul 11, 2010 at 3:37 PM

    You think it was “gentlemanly” to not warn the Cavs so as to maybe pick up a free agent or two before the roof fell in? Tell them after all free agents are signed by other teams? i’d like to read YOUR book of etiquette.

  10. Nick - Jul 11, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    After all this upheaval, what do we know?
    *there will be violence when the Heat visit the Cavs (and no one will blame Cleveland)
    *the Heat is the most hated team in the NBA
    *jokes about LeBron’s mama will continue (“Hey Delonte, how was she”)
    *Wade retains the Ugliest Player in the NBA Award
    *at least one of the trio will suffer a serious injury during the season
    *there is tremendous pressure to win it all next year (otherwise the Heat are a FAILURE)
    *LeBron will be booed in every arena in the NBA
    *LeBron–one is the size of a BB, the other one is smaller
    *most of the national media (both sports and news) are trashing James
    MORE TO COME

  11. Tina - Jul 11, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    Regardless of whether LeBron told Cleveland anything he owes nothing to no one. He was no longer under contract with Cleveland and probably felt he had no reason to tell them anything. He played his butt off for Cleveland and it was very evident that he was tired of doing it all by himself. Every playoff game if he didn’t score no one else stepped up and did anything. I haven’t seen it happen yet that one player can win all by themselves no matter how many points they score you can’t do it all by yourself. We all make the decisions we think are best for our lives and why should he be any different. LeBron is still gonna do his thing and either you’re a fan or you’re not. Get over it… it’s called life! All you people saying crazy remarks should be ashamed of yourselves and should sit back and look at your own lives and see if you really have any room to talk!Or even the money to talk! Go LeBron do your thing boy and make them all kiss your A$$!!!

  12. Nick - Jul 11, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    Fine, Tinass,
    But do not EVER call anyone in any sport disloyal because he leaves a team YOU cheer for.

  13. Yeah Darren... - Jul 11, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    Those are the same players who helped LeFraud win 60+ games two years in a row… Better take off your Rose colored glasses and see the truth for what it is. NBA is now WWE!

  14. Go Lakers! - Jul 11, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    Ding, Ding!!!
    Exactly! He isn’t “the chosen one”, he’s “the gutless one.”
    He totally gave up in game 5. GAME 5! AT HOME!!! Noone can convince me otherwise, I watched many Cavs games and THAT was not the LJ I knew. He did it deliberately…

  15. lexafan - Jul 11, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    We Clevelanders have had Lebron in our news for 11+ years. A decade is a long time. It’s a little (and I mean a little) like a family losing an 11 year old child. Or more realistically, like a rich kid losing one of his toys and a poor kid losing his only toy. The poor kid’s crushed while the rich kid just gets another new toy. It’s not that Lebron left. Everyone knew it was possible and after the Boston performance, I thought probable. It’s been Cleveland’s one bright spot having Lebron James on it’s NBA team. We all thought he was loyal to his home and he would probably stay. The trouble with that is he’s from Akron. Akron has always resented the bigger city to it’s north getting major leauge teams while it’s the minors for them. The rivalry in high school sports between the cities has been historic. Lebron knew this. His home is(was) Akron, not Cleveland. The Cavs originnaly placed their new arena (Richfield Colisuem) in the middle of the two cities hoping to draw from both towns. It failed and a new arena was built in Cleveland. All ancient boring history but Lebron is loyal to his home, Akron. If it was the Akron Cavs it might have been a different story with him leaving but I doubt it, he couldn’t wait to get with Wade and Bosh. Like I said before, it’s not that Lebron left, it’s the sadistic way he stuck it to Cleveland. He knew he was leaving, just man up and do it. The hoopla was a bit much with the “Decision” just causing the most possible hurt feelings. We’re getting over it, just as we have from every other disappointment we’ve had to endure. So forgive us while we look around for something else to cheer for while the rest of you can just go get another toy from your collection.

  16. Cordae - Jul 11, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    LMAO!!!! omg Cleveland get a grip! even if Miami did have this in the making for years, why haven’t you counter-acted? Dont get pissed because your owner is dumb and didnt do what he needed to ensure that your “hometown hero” (I could’ve sworn its not the Akron Caveliers) should’ve stayed put. And please do not start naming these washed up, choking, “i have one good game out of every twenty” players as a supporting cast. They did absolutely nothing! He owes nothing to you all, so STOP trying to make everything so eerie!

  17. dan - Jul 11, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    My prediction is Lebron will return to the Cleveland Cavs later on in his career. He is just a 25 year old kid. He could play until he is 40.Let him play.

  18. banner18 - Jul 11, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    I wouldn’t bank on it. The bridges have been burned and Dan Gilbert will most assuredly still be in town when 2014 rolls around and LBJ can opt out.
    Having said that, how much do you want to bet that LeQuit sticks it to his buddies and leaves them out in the cold in 2014? Hey, he did it to his own hometown, right? Who’s to say he won’t bolt for the Knicks or the Bulls, or even the Lakers?

  19. Nick - Jul 11, 2010 at 5:51 PM

    I agree he might leave then.
    At that time, better not hear ANYTHING from Heat fans about loyalty. May then have to exercise my Second Amendment rights.

  20. Lue Blacknell - Jul 11, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    Lebron has not killed, raped or assaulted anyone-yet most of the comments would make you think otherwise….GET A LIFE! I bet there will be a riot in Cleveland when Miami plays them. When one of you “rednecks” call James the “n-word”-there might be some stupid Blacks that will not react-but not all of them. I use to live in Akron-give me a break-he is from Akron-so technically he does not “belong to you”-ANYWAY!!!!!

  21. Nick - Jul 11, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    You are right, Lue-Boy,
    There will be violence.
    If ESPN televises the real pre-game, I will put extra butter on my popcorn

  22. Russell - Jul 11, 2010 at 6:26 PM

    LMAO! You whinny crybabies! Colusion? Thrown games? Just listen to yourselves. Oh my god. Go get counseling to get over it if you must. This man had every right to make his own decision. He owed cleveland NOTHING! You had NOTHING before he got there. And you having NOTHING now that he left. Plain and simple. Windhorst has no proof on anything he is saying here. He could just be making it up tell sell a story. The only story here is that Lebron LEFT a sorry organization run by a pathetic owner that left his own hometown in michigan. Trust me, cleveland will never win a championship of any kind. There’s a reason for it. Im gonna go chill with my pina colada now on South Beach.

  23. Nick - Jul 11, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    With your illegal friends?

  24. david - Jul 11, 2010 at 6:40 PM

    an owner that wanted to give him everything and did everything lebron wanted as you say but when he doesnt get him then he gave up in the playoffs and is a terrible guy. Why would the Cleveland owner want a guy like that. Oh yea sour grapes when he left but he was the best if he stayed, hypocrits

  25. Nick - Jul 11, 2010 at 6:51 PM

    Yo Davidoff,
    If LeBron is as YOU describe him, why would Miami fans welcome him?

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