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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. justthefactsman! - Jul 12, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    Actually James does not behave like a gentleman off the court….He acts like a “King”. He is consistently rude to servers & hosts in Cleveland Restaurants. He expects preferential treatment off the court as well….When he dines with Shaq the difference is clear which has the class!

  2. Chris - Jul 12, 2010 at 9:44 AM

    First, retard, typing in caps is a big no-no. Secondly, we will never know if Jordan could have because he was never in a big position to do so early in his career. After his third year the Bulls locked him up with an 8 year,$24 million contract. By the time that one ended he had already been a champion and there was no incentive for him to leave. Stop with the idiotic claims of what Magic and Bird did as both of them had far superior talent around them the LeBron did. CLE, NY and Cuban are all sucking on sour grapes because they wanted him so badly, and he wasn’t interested in going to those places. That was his choice. I’m not particularly happy with the way he revealed his choice, but hopefully he will learn how to conduct himself a little better in the future. People only need to be loyal to their families, not places or other people who do not affect their daily lives.

  3. Matt - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    I can understand people from Cleveland metro feeling betrayed about this, but for those acting like Cleveland is going to somehow “get back” at James, what exactly do you think is going to happen? Not to rip on the city, but it’s not as though Cleveland pulls any weight in the media – few people outside the city have any intrinsic interest in what goes on aside from sensational stories like this. Therefore, sans someone physically attacking James or his family or some other sensational media event, Cleveland and Ohio are not going to “get back” at James in any manner, unless you consider whining and complaining “getting back.” Again, I can understand people being annoyed, but get real.

  4. Paul - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    I can only say that the NY Papers called James a “Chicken King” and that to me is a fitting name for him now. He went the easy way out and deserves all this backlash. The way he handled Cleveland and this whole sherade with “The Decision” show was lame. Check out more on my blog at
    Be back soon.

  5. Paul - Jul 12, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    I can only say that the NY Papers called James a “Chicken King” and that to me is a fitting name for him now. He went the easy way out and deserves all this backlash. The way he handled Cleveland and this whole sherade with “The Decision” show was lame. Check out more on my blog at
    Be back soon.

  6. Anonymous - Jul 12, 2010 at 11:50 PM


  7. anonymous - Jul 13, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    I think that Le Bron James new that he was not going to play for CLEVELAND. I watched the last playoff game with the Celtics. After the lost I saw that LE Bron James took off his jersey and threw it down. I told my husband that, that was it for James playing for Cleveland. I was a bit taken by surprised by that display by him. I also thought that it was disrespectful for the team and also management. I knew from that display it would be the last game for him playing for Cleveland.

  8. terry - Jul 13, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    What is wrong with collusion? Nothing. Nothing when owners do it, nothing when players do it. If the three of them wanted to play together and they laid the foundation for this three or 4 years ago what is wrong with that? Nothing. The pathetic espn spectacle when he announced his ‘decision’? Yes that was pathetic. Did he ask for it? Does it matter? How many people watched that farce?
    People burning his shirts? Get real. GET A LIFE.
    What I can’t wait to see is what happens when James’ posse starts pushing people around, getting good team-related jobs, good parking spots, travels with the team, etc. Bosh and ESPECIALLY Wade are sure to just LOVE that. Not to mention the other 9 spear-carriers on the team. This might work long enough for one title but no more than that, and it will be FUN watching it blow up in their faces.
    panem et circenses

  9. Anton - Jul 15, 2010 at 2:52 AM

    Your grand conspiracy theory is meaningless…Stop whining like a child Matt…

  10. Anton - Jul 15, 2010 at 3:25 AM

    And that would be easy to prove wouldn’t it? Which is why it happens all the time and unless someone is stupid, then nothing happens. Which is exactly the result in this case…

  11. PlayFair - Jul 15, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    Why is LeBron or any other player obligated to stay in any place after his/her contract is over. Isn’t that why there is FREE AGENCY?
    I mean, when the shoe is on the other foot, and the player wants to stay but the owner and the city feels that he is no longer necessary, they will toss them to the curb in a minute. Drew Gooden didn’t want to leave. Joe Smith didn’t want to leave. Where was the loyalty?
    And what team or player does not want to maximize their ability to win. Did Boston take the easy way out by getting 3 superstars together? Did Magic take the easy way out by sticking with a team full All Stars and retiring when they left? What about Bird? Same boat. And even Jordan who was in a class of his on, never won a championship without another Hall of Famer, Scottie Pippen.
    So please stop all this self-serving talk about loyalty and players doing it by themselves. Kobe NEVER did it by himself. He needed Shaq, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher in the early 2000s. He needed Pao these past two years, who was actually better in the playoffs than Kobe this year.

  12. Theresa Simpson - Aug 9, 2010 at 11:48 PM

    YOu are missing the point. When Shaq and KG left their initial teams, the teams were OSING. When LeBron left the Cavs, they were WINNING. When you are a franchise player, you don’t leave a WINNING TEAM! And much was due to building a team AROUND LeBron so to bail and turn your back on the team and organization is messed up. If he was unhappy, he needed to make himself clear to the owner NOT 1 MINUTE BEFORE THE ANNOUNCEMENT TO THE WORLD. And if LeBron was so willing to give up $$$, why didn’t he lay some on the table with Gilbert and say now get me some great support and let’s do this! That is because they plotted and schemed to pull this coupe off since 2006 – that is tampering, that is collusion and it took LeBron to QUIT during this year’s playoffs as he couldn’t risk the Cavs advancing and then what – what would his excuse to leave then had he gotten his ring!? All part of their plan. And yes, the sudden questionable elbow. And exrays never did find anything did they! Sure he can go to whatever team he wants, the luxury of free-agency but that sure doesn’t give the player the right to publically smear Northeast Ohio’s face in it. What immaturity and very sad for him if this was from his advisors and his ego so huge he couldn’t see how wrong his handling of his decision was. So you can’t compare MJ and KG leaving. Even Kobe hissed a fit – get me a team or trade me. He never turned his back and he too is the franchise player. LeBron has more interest in BB with his friends and thought that was the easy way to go after being successful in Cleveland with a great chance this year had ne not thrown the Celtics games.

  13. Theresa Simpson - Aug 10, 2010 at 12:03 AM

    But that is also the environment LeBron CREATED himself. He wanted to be the superhero as he was in high school carrying his team to the state finals. It was unthinkable to find a duo or trio of big names to bring to Cleveland to play with LeBron as that would have been an insult to him! He would have needed to bring this up himself and be willing to lay down some of his salary to allow that to occur. Most definately the owner would not even fathom the idea of big names. All was centered by who and what LeBron wanted. So when LeBron’s plan didn’t work in Cleveland, he changed the script and left in the poorest of fashion. Had he NOT been in cahoots with Bosh and Wade from 2006, he would have signed a longer contract with Cleveland and would still be a CAV today and likely into several more years if it was a 5-7 year deal then but only did 3 – funny, 3.

  14. Theresa Simpson - Aug 10, 2010 at 12:17 AM

    Well said. No one would have thought LeBron to play second fiddle and be a role player! Not with how he was at Saint Vincent-Saint Mary’s and then him being the franchise player in Cleveland. People are quick to blame Gilbert that he didn’t provide LeBron any big names. Yet he did go after the players LeBron wanted him to get! The only thing Gilbert is guilty of is putting all his eggs in one LeBron basket. And I repeat myself – where was LeBron’s willingess to put his ego aside in Cleveland to bring another big name to Cleveland to be on HIS team and where was the “I’ll take a cut in pay to help the salary cap issue” that Gilbert was facing. So you all can shut up about Gilbert didn’t put a team together to make a championship team – he did all he could do without stepping on LeEgo’s toes with what little money he could spend!

  15. Theresa Simpson - Aug 10, 2010 at 1:17 AM

    Did you think that maybe LeBron wasn’t getting the coaching he/team needed from Brown any longer? Brown was in awe of LeBron’s game play. You never heard Brown being ‘wired’ -he was not a motivator, he couldn’t kick the team’s ass when they needed one. Why – because no one could offend LeBron’s ego. Both Brown and Ferry were token sacrifices Dan made to show LeBron he is willing to do anything to satisfy LeBron. But still LeBron never offered up a paycut to free up salary cap limitations nor did he express he wanted another big name around him. Just like MJ, Pippin was his wingman but it was still MJ’s team. There was too much depth and rotation on the Cav’s bench that not one player developed into LeBron’s ‘Pippin’.

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