How “The Decision” Came To Be

by July 11, 2010

Brian Windhorst, a man who’s been on the Cavs beat for most of LeBron’s tenure, dug deep into “The Decision.” What came of it was this tremendous feature. We have an excerpt for you here, but recommend you read it in its entirety:

During a rally for Miami Heat fans Friday night, Chris Bosh said he had been talking with new teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade about the moment for months.

It was a slip, which some, including Bosh himself, caught. The premise that the trio had been talking about teaming up for months hinted there was a plan in place. That potentially would be against rules, and could raise concerns from the league since Bosh and James were playing for teams battling for the playoffs in Toronto and Cleveland.

Bosh quickly revised the statement and said they had been talking about it for “days.” But it appears James, Bosh and Wade had been discussing this for years.

The Plain Dealer talked to numerous sources to piece together a picture of how James ended up in Miami.

It is still a somewhat fuzzy picture, but here are the broad strokes:

The seeds were planted in the summer of 2006 after Bosh, James and Wade finished their third seasons. Established All-Stars and clearly the future of the league, the three were part of a bonding effort led by USA Basketball to revamp and re-energize the national team after the disappointing 2004 bronze medal.

The three played together for the first time that summer in Japan at the World Championships. For the first week, they were sequestered without family or friends in Sapporo, Japan, in an attempt to build chemistry. But it wasn’t just the players. Working as an intern for Team USA and getting to know the players was Nick Arison, the son of Heat billionaire owner Micky Arison.

Now, Nick Arison is a rising executive with the Heat. He was part of the team that recruited all three players this summer.

That same July, the co-op took on another role when all three decided to extend their contracts with their teams. They couldn’t all become unrestricted free agents until 2007 under the rules, so the smart play was for them to extend with the respective teams.

But with some of the league’s higher-profile older stars perceived as being stuck in long-term contracts with struggling teams, the three decided to go for shorter contracts.

In the ensuing years, four important events happened that were major contributors to their teaming in 2010.

First, the three had a positive and emotional summer in 2008 in China, winning the gold medal. They proved they could play effectively together. For the most part, they checked their egos, with Wade even deciding to come off the bench.

Second, Los Angeles-based management company Creative Artists Agency decided to get into the basketball agent business. Seeing how influential they could be in the summer of 2010, CAA bought the agencies that represented James, Bosh and Wade. Bringing them all under one roof gave CAA huge control of the market and took down any barriers the three would have with negotiations.

Third, the recession hit, and NBA owners started tightening their spending, a trend that would last for two years. The result was a bubble of salary-cap space that eventually would result in giving numerous teams large blocks of cap space in 2010.

Fourth, the struggling New York Knicks launched a plan in the fall of 2008 to clear off enough cap space to sign two maximum level free agents in an effort to recruit James to New York by promising to sign another star as well. Though he never said so directly, James began openly flirting with the thought. Other teams saw the opening and hatched the same plan.

That included the Heat, which was in the midst of a large-scale rebuilding process after a 15-win season…

All the players still met with teams just to make sure they wanted Miami. Wade and James were interested in Chicago, where there was a chance two of them could match up and play with rising star Derrick Rose. But Wade stayed strong to Riley’s plan and kept tugging on James and Bosh.