LeBron James decision was not a simple one.
Strip away the show and the made-for-media presentations the other teams had to put on — the things for which James has been heavily criticized — and you get to a decision that was about the core of who LeBron James is.
There were two key factors in his mind, I believe. One was the chance to recreate what he had in high school — when he and his best friends owned the court and the city. When playing basketball was fun and simply and extension of the camaraderie off the court. J.R. Moehringer put forward this wise idea in his fantastic GQ piece.
The other factor was family. And stability with that.
LeBron James had basically no father growing up and a mother working multiple jobs as they bounced from home in his elementary school years. Now, security and family matter to him.
And that is what the Miami Heat pitched — that their organization is a family. Look at what Pat Riley said recently, as quoted by Surya Fernandez over at the Hot Hot Heat blog.
“I think the one thing we tried to get across as an organization, when we met with all of the free agents, is I introduced Andy [Elisburg, assistant GM] and Nick [Arison, VP basketball operations], Micky [Arison, Heat owner], I didn’t introduce myself. Coach and Alonzo [Mourning] was there. And I spoke about how long they’ve been with us and what we’re about,” Riley said after the Heat’s welcome party in the AA Arena.
“And everybody in this organization, Andy started as an intern in the PR department. He started in the video room. Zo was the anchor. He’s the anchor and he’s the image of what The Heat are about. He’s a warrior. He’s got a great heart. And he extends beyond that into the community. Micky has simply been an incredible owner for all of us.
“It’s his attention, I think, to detail and the discipline. After all, he does have a day job and it’s a pretty successful business. And he brings that into the culture. Nick Arison, when I came here in 1995, he was 14 years old. And he was not the team attendant. He was basically running the whole show down in the locker room. He’s heard more speeches by me that he reminds me of on a regular basis that he wants to forget.
“And I think (LeBron) understood that this is a group. This really is stability and it’s about a family.”
It worked. Clearly teaming up with other superstars and a chance to win was part of it, but family mattered. The Heat offered stability. Really, they had the perfect pitch and situation. Something even the security and familiarity Cleveland offered could not match.