America agog as biggest star in basketball 'betrays' his old team

To his former boss in Cleveland, he is "narcissistic" and a "coward". To the fans of south Florida's premier basketball franchise, the Miami Heat, he might as well be God and the Tooth Fairy wrapped into one, riding into town to help them win the next national championship title.

It was the manner in which LeBron James, an athletic star whose fame is eclipsed only by the reach of his almost bionic right arm made his choice, almost more than his actual decision, that stunned fans everywhere. On a live television broadcast, he said the fateful words: Miami Beach.

And thus, the moment his devoted Cleveland – James is from Akron, also in northern Ohio - had been dreading had arrived, ever since it became clear that their favourite son would be taking advantage of his free agency to consider the courtship of just about every basketball team in the country.

In a close season that has provided arguably the biggest roster of unattached stars in the National Basketball Association's history, LeBron James is surely the biggest. And as team after team has beaten a path to his door, wooing him with promises of the teammates they would provide and the salary they would pay, the superstar has kept his cards close to his chest. Even P. Diddy got in on the excitement, confidently predicting on Twitter that the New York Knicks would win the coveted signing.

James showed his hand in front of the nation on the ESPN sports channel. And in the end, his choice of the Heat over his hometown was not so surprising. At the Heat, his chances of winning the coveted national title that he has so far failed to secure look considerably better – good enough for the star to forego some $30m (£19m) that Cleveland could offer above any other team.

James will find himself playing alongside not one but two of his teammates from the team that won Olympic Gold in Beijing two years ago, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Together, the newly-assembled trio will transform Miami into hot favourites in every game they play.

"I can't say it was always in my plans, because I never thought it was possible," James said on the ESPN show. "But the things that the Miami Heat franchise has done... it was hard to turn down. Those are two great players."

The move will not endear James to everyone who loves the game of basketball. The betrayal of perennial underdogs Cleveland could hardly be more painful. That does not mean the entire nation won't be tuned to the Miami Heat next season, to see how its high-octane players perform together and to relish the catastrophe if they fail.

Making no secret of his priority of grasping the feted ring given to NBA champions, James told ESPN: "Winning is a huge thing for me."

There is no consolation for the folks in Cleveland, especially not for the owner of the snubbed Cleveland Cavaliers.

"This was announced with a several-day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his 'decision' unlike anything ever 'witnessed' in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment," Dan Gilbert said in a ferocious letter released to fans late on Thursday evening. "Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us."

If James feels the opprobrium of a nation that looks askance at acts of self-indulgence from their biggest stars, he at least can reassure himself that Gloria, his mother, is not angry. When he rang her to ask her permission for the switch, she did not stand in his way.

"I thought I'd hear a different reaction," he said of the phone call with her. "She felt that it was going to make me happy."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?