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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. cmonman - Jul 11, 2010 at 10:10 PM

    Lebron’s a crybaby on a powerhouse team that will win at lease 3 championships. And Cleveland has who on its roster…….? Who in their right mind will sign to play for Cleveland after the abuse from Mr Gilbert and Cavaliers fans. Lebron will be crying all the way to the title at least 3X over while Cleveland and its fans will be complaining how several years ago in the summer of 2010 Lebron did not call the owner to tell him that he was leaving join DWade and Bosh in Miami. Just let go. Cleveland its chance. Like I said earlier, some are ment to be champions and others are ment to watch champions from the stands or tv. Guess which is Cleveland?

  2. phil - Jul 11, 2010 at 10:10 PM

    That might be the case, but my point is that Gilbert did what was in his best interest, even if it was what Lebron wanted, and did not show loyalty to Brown or Ferry. I feel bad for the fans of Cleveland, but not its hypocritical owner commenting on loyalty.

  3. Karlitozway - Jul 11, 2010 at 10:14 PM

    I read this and I find there are a bunch of haters! Yes I am from Miami, but Cleveland fans should be upset at how the Cav’s owner handled this. If I am a free agent I would never play for an owner that handles business this way. I’d be thinking “If I sign a contract with this organization and I decide to leave once my contract is over am I going to get trashed”? Any free agent considering Celveland would have to think about this before playing for this clown.
    What type of owner is he to let a player sandbag it in playoff games and call him out on things that happened years ago…he should’ve done this before. Pat Riley has called out Wade plenty of times and Shaq when he was here. He didn’t wait for them to leave or to be a free agent to do so. THAT IS HOW YOU GET RESPECT AND HANDLE BUSINESS!
    No stars will ever play in Cleveland again….I actually feel bad for Byron Scott, because he will have to hit on all the picks the Heat gave him to have any chance of a superstar playing in that town again.

  4. LARRY - Jul 11, 2010 at 10:17 PM


  5. the Shark - Jul 11, 2010 at 10:25 PM

    Yes u r right Phil. However, Kobe wasn’t planning on being stupid from jump street. He was never leaving the Lakers. Unlike Lebum, he did not leaving 40 & 50 mill on the table. Plus he had Phil J, Mitch Kupchek, and the greatest owner of all modern time Jerry Bus. Thats why owners need to keep their franchise player in check and not loyalaties. If you think about whats going on today, there is no such thing is loyalty no more. Whoever pays more give more prestege thats where I’m going. However, Dan Gibert didn’t think of that when LB left. He’s has been talking leaving Cavs for 2 years straight. Dan should have had him sign a contract or made sure he got a trade some how. Be a smart owner not an idiot Dan.

  6. Greg - Jul 11, 2010 at 10:41 PM

    Why is BeBron a traitor if he doesn’t want to play in Cleveland? Isn’t that the meaning of “free” agent? Maybe the owner is a jerk. LB wants ONE thing…a ring. He realized he would never get it by staying at Cleveland. In Miami, he has a chance. One great player can’t win a ring, anymore. It takes multiple “franchise” players. Look at the last ten championships…LA (Kobe, Shaq, Phil), San Antonio (Timmy, Parker, Ginobili), Boston (Garnett, Pierce, Allen), LA (Kobe, Gasol, Artest). I think it’s brilliant.

  7. jlm25th - Jul 11, 2010 at 10:52 PM

    Yes, they didnt win, but look at LeBron’s performance and that is why. He is paid millions more than anyone else on the team, yet scored 15 measley points in a critical playoff game! This is not Gilbert’s fault – it is Lebron’s – he sucked and gave up in the series. Some MVP – he is a disgrace.

  8. cmonman - Jul 11, 2010 at 10:55 PM

    Did Jordan leave his fan base?? He didnt have to leave his fan base because he had talent around him. Did Magic leave his fan base?? He didnt have to leave because ownership put talent around him. Did Kobe leave his fan base?? No!!!! Because ownership put talent around him. Bird, Duncan, Garnett. Ok, I think you get the message. I guess we have to hear this excuse from the sore losers in Cleveland for the next 20 years even when Lebron wins 7 championships in Miami. By Golly, thats cool with me. If Lebron was so desperate to get away from Cleveland that he was willing to sacrifice being “the man”, what does that say about Cleveland? Let me tell you what that says…..CLEVELAND SUCKS!!!!!

  9. cmonman - Jul 11, 2010 at 11:01 PM

    Lebron James…………..BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!!Go HEAT!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Dan Gilbert says that Cleveland will win title before Lebron does……….. Psycho Talk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Come on Cleveland fans, for real, what did you think when Dan Gilbert made this prediction? You were probably thinking the same thing that I was thinking. What was he smoking and can I have a hit. That had to be some good sh_t!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Lisa - Jul 11, 2010 at 11:27 PM

    Taking the part out about him leaving and that the 3 probably talked before they should have..doesn’t anyone think it’s a big problem that he quit in the playoffs? Many, many people said it long before Gilbert alluded to it. I mean, if I am Miami, that’s my first concern. Quit once, he’ll quit again.

  11. Grramps - Jul 11, 2010 at 11:46 PM

    Joe Smith and the Timberwolves got hammered for FAR less, so I suspect Stern is just lining his ducks in a row. There is a reason he is so quiet on all of this. I am distrusting of the NBA, but they know they are on a thin rope with many sports fans. Their shady draft lottery, refs cheating and then reminding us that there is more to it. So though they seem pretty crooked, they have to at least pretend to try and keep it clean. So I suspect Stern has some surprises for Wiley Riley, and the Heat will be burned. This was the definition of collusion, and saying the players are free to do this is untrue. Many business owners of competing businesses are friends, but they are not allowed to openly collude. If Stern doesn’t do something about this, the league basically losses all credibility and frankly control. There may as well be no more NBA as players can make up their own teams and set up games on ESPN and other outlets dying to overpay them further.

  12. Don - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:26 AM

    Jesse Jackson has it right when he accuses the disingenuous Gilbert of adapting a slave owner’s mentality in his whining rant against James. James, Wade and Bosh are free to play for whomever they choose. I think it’s great that the bonds they forged during their experience together in international competition were so strong that they want to play on the same team. This was a selfless act on the part of three of the greatest athletes of our time.
    GO HEAT!

  13. 60eagles - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:26 AM

    Tax the hell out of the rich. That will do it every time. They are not rich because they’re stupid. Florida: No state Tax. NY and Ohio: Big state tax. Of course liberals would never understand this.

  14. cmonman - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:29 AM

    Grramps, you, like the rest of these bozo Cleveland fans are grasping for straws. There were no rules broken. There was no tampering. Stern nor anyone else can stop friends from wanting to play with each other. Especially if they are willing to make less money. What is the big deal? They all were free agents and could choose to sign with whom they want be it for more or less money. Miami was the only team that was able do what all the NBA teams wish they could do. Believe me, if Cleveland, New York, New Jersey, Dallas, Atlanta, or Chicago were able to sign all three, they would have jumped through hoops to get these deals done. Miami was the only team that made all the right moves to get all three and now everyone is crying bloody murder. Miami took the greater risk by dumping all contract except two to clear the space under the cap to have the chance. So, as a result, they were rewarded handsomly. The system worked. Just because your team did not hit the free agent lottery dont try to discredit its effectiveness. Why are the owners so afraid of the players controlling where and who they play for? I dont understand the hypocrisy of it all. Mark Cuban now wants Stern to prevent players from communicating before signing day to give owners advantage. Some are suggesting that teams should be able to sign players starting on July 1 instead of July 8 to prevent players from discussing options before they sign. NBA owners are ready to hit the panic button because they feel like they are losing control to players because of this Lebron, Dwade, and Bosh signing. Who would have thought that these guys would be willing to take less money to play together. This is the real issue that the NBA owners have with this. Once they realize that they cant divide and conquer these athletes with money, they will lose control of it. Isnt this what we all complained about before 2010. That the athletes of today only wants to play for money and not the love of the game. So what if they had dinner and discussed winning championships together. These guys are a breath of fresh air and more of them are needed in the NBA.

  15. DLaker - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:10 AM

    Tina, I could not have said it better. People, People, People, let me break it down to all of you who feel this sports transition of Bosh, James, and Wade should not habve takenm place. You see folks, in our society, we are judged by our peers, those who appreciate you, and those who don’t. In the sports era, an since Basketball is the topic, it seems as if we truly forgot that it’s still a game for our enjoyment. Yes, it’s true people, it’s a game, but it’s also a trillion dollar business when you factor in salaries, ticket sales, etc. Just keep in mind that Mr. James decision was just that, HIS DECISION!!! He honored his contract for 7 years people, 7 tough basketball years in that wonderful city, and because he made a decision to relocate after he honored those 7 years of service, you all jump on the “I Hate You Lebron bandwagon”. No disrespect people, but he did give the city of Cleveland something warm to carry inside, and keep in mind, it began when he was only 18 years old. Just by what I’ve read, I gathered that most of you feel Mr. James let you down, made you feel rejected, cheated you out of a possible opportunity to have a chance to grab that golden globe called a world championship trophy, but in reality, he wanted that 7 years ago up to the present. He and the other players on that team helped bring Cleveland to the finals once, that’s something the city of Cleveland NEVER Experienced in Basketball, and after all of that, you send hate comments towards him. It’s sad that out society is this way. It’s Basketball people, a fun sport that I guess we all are in tune with. The lakers are my team, always have been and always will be, but i’m a basketball fan first. If Kobe decided to leave, which could have happened a couple of years ago for Chicago, I would have been saddened, but I would have still supported him if he left without any anger because of all the things he brought that franchise while he played. Tina who wrote earlier said it best, Lebron, you do your thing, and make everyone who sprays your name negatively kiss your million dollar A$$ when the season begins.

  16. Larry - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:26 AM

    ROFL, I can see that Miami fans are out in force. I totally agree that James should be able to play wherever he wants. The problem was that James was classless in how he handled this whole situation and it DOES seem that there was collusion between the players. I totally agree that James should be able to play wherever he wants. I have noticed that many people not from Florida are ripping apart the way James went about this whole process. LOL, he was booed in NY yesterday!
    Did any of you supporters bother to watch the Boston series??? How many turnovers did James have throughout the series? In Game 6 I believe he had NINE. He was also holding the ball, dribbling it in the corner during parts of the game and I noticed him just staring into the crowd on several other occasions. He only actually played ONE game that was up to par. The others were WAY below his capabilities. Intentional??? Hmmm, and Bosh gets hit with an elbow and is out in crucial games while Toronto was battling for a playoff spot??? These 3 AmEgoes NEED to be investigated. The NBA is becoming a joke. I have stopped watching pro games and primarily watch the college games.
    I don’t think anything will happen but those 3 players have their reputation tarnished forever. If they win, what does that prove? Cheaters always win?? Sickening!!!

  17. LeBrick Pippen - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:51 AM

    LeBrick Pippen=0 for 7 and counting…
    Maybe being robin to Dwayne Wade will finally get him one ring LMFAO.

  18. Ray - Jul 12, 2010 at 5:48 AM

    LMAO. If LeBron “quit” in the playoffs, what’s the excuse for his teammates? Oh yeah, they choke under pressure, aren’t really that good, and expect LeBron to save them by playing 1-on-5.
    Magic, Bird, Jordan, and Kobe all had star sidekicks, but the Cavaliers could only manage to surround LeBron with the body of what used to be Shaq, “energy guys” with bad haircuts, and a crazy undersized 2-guard who couldn’t shoot when it mattered but sure liked LeBron’s mom.
    There was another guy in the backcourt too, but I can’t remember his name because he never bothered to join the team during the playoffs.
    Kobe, on the other hand, would never quit, that’s why he was so dialed in for Game 7 of the finals with his clutch 25% shooting. LMAO. But hey, Ron Ron and the Spaniard got him another ring, so who am I to judge?
    Oh, and LeBron wouldn’t bother with the Knicks because their idea of winning basketball is having Mike D’Antoni as coach and bringing back Isaiah’s crazy ass. But at least Isaiah never tried to choke D’Antoni, so I guess that makes them better than the Bulls, huh? LMAO.

  19. tema14 - Jul 12, 2010 at 5:58 AM

    Lebron James is King? Say your opinion at . Please explain WHY!

  20. Ray - Jul 12, 2010 at 6:03 AM

    By the way, you people are morons if you think LeBron would have a harder time leaving Cleveland having won a ring. It would be EASIER to walk away having accomplished your mission, even if you said you just wanted to ball with your buddies on South Beach for the remainder of your career. Your job would be DONE.
    Cleveland didn’t need a dynasty, they just wanted ONE title. Instead, LeBron leaves having failed, and that invites scrutiny.
    And if LeBron really wanted to throw the season, he would have blown some regular season games to not get home court advantage. Easier to believably lose on the road in the playoffs.
    Or he could have done the dunk contest after all and “hurt” himself.
    Really, if you’re going to make up a conspiracy about plans years in the making that Pat Riley is in on, at least think them through. Riles would have told LeBron to blow the game he was playing that night against the Heat if he was coordinating any of this, but instead LeBron had a game-winning steal.

  21. Ray - Jul 12, 2010 at 6:08 AM

    By the way, you people are insane if you think LeBron would have a harder time leaving Cleveland having won a ring. It would be EASIER to walk away having accomplished your mission, even if you said you just wanted to ball with your buddies on South Beach for the remainder of your career. Your job would be DONE.
    Cleveland didn’t need a dynasty, they just wanted ONE title. Instead, LeBron leaves having failed, and that invites scrutiny.
    And if LeBron really wanted to throw the season, he would have blown some regular season games to not get home court advantage. Easier to believably lose on the road in the playoffs.
    Or he could have done the dunk contest after all and “hurt” himself.
    Really, if you’re going to make up a conspiracy about plans years in the making that Pat Riley is in on, at least think them through. Riles would have told LeBron to blow the game he was playing that night against the Heat if he was coordinating any of this, but instead LeBron had a game-winning steal.
    This is all too funny. Just some pathetic c*ckblocking probably being led by Mr. Integrity himself, Mark Cuban.

  22. NotFooled - Jul 12, 2010 at 6:15 AM

    and just as the espn driven lebron gravy train runs out of fuel on the big FU Cavs debacle; sports journo’s throw out more hype to keep that lil bron engine chuggin along.
    sports journalism is nothing more then sensationalised BS to draw in the suckers and create debate where there frankly is none.
    when journo’s start naming sources and hold each other accountable for poor ill informed gossip that insults the intelligence of the very people who keep them employed…THEN we have reason to buy into this WWE wanna be reporting.
    until then…wait till the story unfolds and quit making yourselves look as bad as the very people who would have you believe they know whats fact and whats fiction.

  23. Jim "Bob" - Jul 12, 2010 at 7:39 AM

    LeBron is just another thug on the NBA League of Thugs

  24. Dwoods - Jul 12, 2010 at 7:49 AM

    I’m from Ohio and find it hilarious how many people are dogging LeBron now. The assault against his character is hypocritical at best because these same people would have been jumping for joy had this “ego-maniac” stayed. And I don’t want to hear the “It’s about the WAY he left” bs. Had he chosen Cleveland in the same way all we would have heard is how great the special was and how great he is for Cleveland. LeBron has had nothing but good things to say about Cleveland and Akron and instead of wishing him well and thanking him for what he’s done, they’ve threatened him, called him ridiculous names and wished him harm. HE’S not loyal? I would have left too.

  25. Chiang Mai Jim - Jul 12, 2010 at 8:13 AM

    Your elaboration on tampering is a key, key point that will, I am sure, get more attention, rather than less. There has been a conspiratorial stench to this event for a long time. Allowing players to conspire or collude in order to achieve thier “ends” is a very slippery slope indeed for the NBA. And there should be no question in any sane persons mind that this is what just culminated.
    I could well imagine that Dan Gilbert and his legal team have been well aware and prepared to pursue some kind of recourse for quite awhile. Gilbert/and the Toronto Raptors both opted to forego charges of tampering in exchange for a number of draft picks. I can only imagine that the Heat set a world record in negotiating this exchange. It appears,for the moment, that Mark Cuban is now the “stalking horse” who will pursue the issue, at least publicly.
    The integrity of the league and the future of small market teams are at such risk here, unless there is a loud, definitive, painful cry of foul. I absolutely hate “cheating” under the guise of “its just business”. It was beyond pathetic as Lebron stammered and stuttered through his opening lines, something simple that he has had weeks to prepare for. The reason he was so clumsy was that he had little legal voices swirling around his head reminding him not to say “this” or not to say “that.” Such as what Chris Bosh did yesterday when the he let it slip that this arrangement had been in the works for months. Believe me, it is not only the owners, but Lebrons/Wades/Bosh team, as well, who are worried-not to mention the Heat, the NBA etc.
    There will be much more to this story and I do believe Gilbert when he said ‘there is more to come”.

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