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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. jorge - Jul 11, 2010 at 8:43 PM

    What should we call Jordan and Riley meeting with LBJ? LBJ dumping his number 23 because he wants to honor Jordan?
    From the article, is this also refutable ?
    “The three played together for the first time that summer in Japan at the World Championships. For the first week, they were sequestered without family or friends in Sapporo, Japan, in an attempt to build chemistry. But it wasn’t just the players. Working as an intern for Team USA and getting to know the players was Nick Arison, the son of Heat billionaire owner Micky Arison.
    Now, Nick Arison is a rising executive with the Heat. He was part of the team that recruited all three players this summer.
    Already close because they came from the same draft class, the Team USA experience strengthened the relationship. Even before the team gathered in Las Vegas to prepare for the World Championships that summer, the three had talked about playing for that team.”
    Nick Arison, the son of Heat billionaire owner Micky Arison. What a great coincidence. ALl three players had discussed playing together (admitted already by them, again).
    If it has webbed feet like a duck, waddles like a duck, has feathers like a duck, quacks like a aduck, it is not a freaking dolphin. This should be investigated. At the very least we should all get our time back for watching a fake decision. LBJ looked scared because he knew he had pulled a fast one.

  2. Splicelite - Jul 11, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    How come so many of you NY idiots move down here every year?

  3. jorge - Jul 11, 2010 at 8:50 PM

    The idiots moved down there. Hell hole still.

  4. cmonman - Jul 11, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    David you hit the nail on the head. Dan Gilbert and all of the Cleveland fans were ok with Lebron as long as his talent was benefiting them. Cleveland never loved Lebron, only loved what Lebron he could do for them. If you truly loved or cared for Lebron you would never turn on him for making a decision that he thought was best for him. For those of you who have children would never turn on your kids if they made a decision that you diagreed with. You might not like it but you never disown them. Cleveland has disowned Lebron after all he has done for that city. I can truly say that Cleveland doesnt deserve to WIN! Cleveland can forget about top free agents signing with them. I hope the draft works out for you because after the “open letter” from the owner its a wrap. I hope your team survives this.

  5. We Want Wade - Jul 11, 2010 at 8:56 PM

    Somebody should give Brian windhorst some tissue. His article seems to be the remaining cry baby letter started by Dan Gilbert. Why are you guys so emotional. Those two should just marry each other, crying like husbands who just found out that their wives were on a gangbang vid doing the dirty sanchez. Sorry fellas she’s gone, she found bigger and better living under the palm trees and sunny sun. So to Mr. Gilbert and Windhorst “Leborn James is in Miami Bach”. Miami welcomes Leborn J and C Bosh with open arms, love and support. In 97′ the Marlins took a championship away from the Indians. In 2002 the whole state of Ohio stole a NCAA ship from the Hurricanes, and now Miami is back to even the score so we take Lebron James.

  6. Splicelite - Jul 11, 2010 at 8:58 PM

    S I guess I should be expecting you any day now. Knicks will still suck no matter how much you cry. Get over the fact Lebron didn’t want to be in a crappy situation loser.

  7. jorge in NY - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:01 PM

    From what we are learning about the King, he was given free reign in Cleveland and probably called many shots. Did the owner cave in and gave LBJ anything that he wanted? Who actually buitl the team? If LBJ built it, then Cleveland has the right to be upset at the mess he created by not building a winning team.
    But, if the owner did not have the cojones in 7 years to build a serious team around Lebron, who is at fault?
    I am glad to live in NY and although we were also duped, I like our chances anyway. NY was the center of the Basketball universe and will be again. poor clevelnad can only claim to be a nice place to live, but, seriously, how nice can the place or people be if they are so upset about losing their meal ticket?

  8. Anonymous - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    take him cleveland doesnt want quitters he took the easy way out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. ck - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:05 PM

    Although Cavs fans have every right to feel bitter and disappointed, no one should begrudge James for opting for free agency. That’s the whole point of working toward free agency. To be able to chose your team, using whatever criteria is important to you, and negotiating for the best possible contract.
    Despite comments to the contrary, James is not selfish for chosing to play in Miami. By chosing Miami, he has the opportunity to play with his friends, to play in a city with great weather and entertainment, and to play for a legendary team president and organization comitted to winning. All good reasons, plus the fact that he stands a very good chance of winning not just one, but if all goes well, several NBA championships. If James doesn’t look out for his own best interests, who will, and no one can seriously argue that playing in a market like Miami with Wade and Bosh is not in James’ best interest.
    At the same time, not even Miami fans can possibly defend the disrespectful manner in which James made the announcement to the Cavs owner and James’ loyal legion of fans who spent hard earned money year after year in a depressed economy to support James by purchasing his gear.
    That being said, I don’t think James thought beyond the announcement and the emotional impact his decision had on all NBA fans. While this media disaster is the best thing that could have happened to the NBA, (I can’t wait for the season to start) outside of Florida, James is now commercially impotent as NBA fans from every team but Miami sympathize with Cleveland and will probably stand together with Cavs fans to support a boycott of James’ Miami gear as a result of his insensitivity and affront to dedicated Cavs fans. And not only will James’ toxic image affect his ability to sell his own gear outside of Florida, but the entire Miami Heat organization will suffer from guilt by association. I still like Wade and Bosh, but I won’t replace the faded Wade jerseys once my kids outgrow them.
    Can’t wait for the season and the drama to start.

  10. Splicelite - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:06 PM

    Dude, Thats right you just reminded me of the 2002 NC game with Ohio State where they must have paid off that ref in the corner of the endzone. Screw you Cleveland and I hope the crap Browns also leave.

  11. jorge - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:09 PM

    Like I said, all the idiots moved down there already, and I might add they probably raised the IQ quotient. LBJ was meant to go there too and life will go on.

  12. Anonymous - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:09 PM


  13. flavorblade - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    Nobody says anythings when sports organizations suddenly cut players when they can’t perform they way they want. Most contracts don’t give up a lot of guaranteed money. Basketball isn’t as bad as football but still it’s cut throat. Do today – maybe tomorrow – yesterday doesn’t count. This time the shoe was on the other foot. The owner got hurt and man did he cry. If that’s how he really felt about Lebron didn’t need to be there anyhow.
    Looking at it Lebron is basically a mama’s boy. 25 years old, never lived away from home, just traveled. He needs to get out on his own. Miami is a good town to get his feet wet. He’s not a high paid slave he’s a player. Respect his ability to choose his own destiny. Like I said how much warning does a player get before he is cut.
    Plus Cleveland just ain’t shiit when it comes to sports. Never been. Find a boxer or something.

  14. jorge in NY - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    CK, it will be interesting. Nothing is guaranteed and games still will have to be played. The nice thing for Lebron is that now he can fake an elbow injury and not have to worry about carrying a team on his own. If things don’t work out well, he can always say that his elbow never really recovered.

  15. cmonman - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:22 PM

    The easy way out? Are you kidding me? There was nothing easy about turning a dead franchise into the BEST team in the NBA. After Michael Jordan pounded Cleveland for nearly a decade, you guys were blessed to be resucitated by the efforts of Lebron. He gave Cleveland life and not to mention jobs, pride, and a booming local economy. Maybe Lebron knew something about Cleveland that the rest of the world did not. We will gladly take Lebron along the with the seven championships that he will bring to Miami. Go Heat!!!!!!!

  16. jorge in NY - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:29 PM

    Games have to be played and other teams will not be seating by waiting for the three stooges to fool them. The rest of the league is also rebuilding.

  17. JOE - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:30 PM


  18. Diego - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:33 PM

    I just read (not in MSN news, didn’t see it)that the Rev Jesse Jackson commented that the Cavs thought of Lebron as a slave. With all due respect Rev, slaves don’t get paid millions of dollars to play games!!!!

  19. Diego - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:37 PM

    I just read (not in MSN news, didn’t see it)that the Rev Jesse Jackson commented that the Cavs thought of Lebron as a slave. With all due respect Rev, slaves don’t get paid millions of dollars to play games!!!!

  20. the shark - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    Well CK, at the end of the day, Dan Gilbert is gona look like the the idiot owner for allowing a franchise player to get away and get nothing for him. Of course everyone is angry that he left Cleveland like gone with the wind. I’m not please the way he did it to. He should of talked to Dan first with respect of his team and told him if he gets some real real players there for him he would stay. Or maybe tell him behind close door that he was leaving. I believe there were some form of dysfuncted communication between those 2. I think its more than meets the eye on what went on behind close doors. Just like when I was watching one those Boston series game against Cleveland. I noticed that Lebron wasn’t putting much effort. It looked suspicious to me then. Makes me wonder what was that all about. All of this make u want 2 say “hummmmmmmmmmmm”

  21. cmonman - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:50 PM

    Rebuilding, with what? Who, the Knicks? Are you serious? You guys have been dreaming about the return your so called basketball mecca for more than 30 years. New York is too self absorbed to return to champions. The only people who believe New York’s hype are New Yorkers. Thats the problem. Maybe if New Yorkers stop smelling themselves and realize that the world does not begin and end in NEW York the Knicks may have a chance to revive its horrible franchise. Again, like the ownership in Cleveland, the Knicks also have a big problem in its ownership. The most elite players are making decisions on what owner to play for. Dolan has a horrible reputation. Amare clearly went there for the money and was hugely over paid. This decision will cost the Knicks another 5 years of misery.

  22. phil - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:54 PM

    This will eventually go away. Everyone is praising Kobe as being loyal. lets remember that he threatened to quit, while still under contract, if the Lakers did not trade Shaq. Labron and Bosh were free agents. They had the right to leave. Why is no one questioning Dan Gilbert’s loyalty in firing Mike Brown and Danny Ferry?

  23. phil - Jul 11, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    This will eventually go away. Everyone is praising Kobe as being loyal. lets remember that he threatened to quit, while still under contract, if the Lakers did not trade Shaq. Labron and Bosh were free agents. They had the right to leave. Why is no one questioning Dan Gilbert’s loyalty in firing Mike Brown and Danny Ferry?

  24. the shark - Jul 11, 2010 at 10:03 PM

    Amen to that brother. It was fair and square. Move on folks.

  25. ANTHONY - Jul 11, 2010 at 10:06 PM


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