It someday may go down with the most legendary player moves in NBA history — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers, Dirk Nowitzki to the Mavs (on draft night for Tractor Traylor), and the Celtics turning Joe Barry Carroll into Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish.
One year ago today, LeBron James told Jim Gray and the world he was taking his talents to South Beach.
No doubt, it created a backlash. But the energy it created helped propel the league to television ratings and popularity levels the NBA had not seen in a decade.
It changed the landscape of the NBA. It changed the popularity of the NBA. It changed the “We are all Witnesses” billboard in Cleveland. It changed the way we all think about Comic Sans font.
It will someday be looked back on as a move that made or broke LeBron James’ career.
It was a decision that some said on a basketball level was LeBron trying to take the easy way out. As if Bill Russell, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan were not been surrounded by great talent. The difference was LeBron decided to move to the talent – rather than having things built around him — and that changed the equation. Rather than be the “alpha male” LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to team up. Some saw that as a sign of weakness, some saw that as smart.
The fear that choice struck in the hearts of small-market owners is part of the reason we have a lockout today. The fall that the Cavaliers took — both on the court and in the overall value of the franchise — made some smaller market owners dig in their heels for this lockout, demanding a system where they could compete and had a better chance to keep their stars.
It was a decision that was widely slammed for how it was handled. LeBron’s people thought they were improving his brand — based on television ratings you could argue they were right — but it left him as one of the most polarizing figures in all of sport. It was a decision that — along with the pep rally in Miami — became a public relations nightmare. The Heat are hated or loved.
What we will think of “The Decision” in a decade is impossible to say. Some will always say it was a decision of ego and an easy way to a title. But winning can change the story’s ending. And we don’t know how it ends.
But one year ago today, everything changed.