All-Star Analysts

Throwback transactions: LeBron links up with the Heat

Published September 5, 2022, 11:00 AMIsaac Go

LeBron James’ controversial decision to move to Miami had a huge impact on the Heat and the league.

The setup

It’s 2010. LeBron James had just lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Boston Celtics. He has now been in the league for seven seasons and has only one NBA Finals appearance to show for it. Dubbed as the savior of Cleveland and the “Chosen One”, people now are starting to question if he truly deserves those titles. 

Then it all changes.

LeBron plans a televised spectacle, “The Decision”. Everyone is waiting, glued to their television sets. Will he re-sign with Cleveland or will he move on? He eventually decides to take his talents to South Beach to form the first player-created Big Three with Chris Bosh and Dwyane wade. 

The league is in shock. The city of Cleveland is taking to the streets and his jersey is being burnt in the streets. Media, players, and executives are outraged, scrutinizing LeBron’s decision to team up and the manner he did it. Only in Miami was there any form of celebration.

I loved the idea of having a televised reveal, despite a lot of purists despising it. LeBron, as a player and as a personality, has pull and clout. Whatever he does, wears, says, and endorses is immediately seen by millions. LeBron not only found a way to monetize his decision but he donated the earnings to multiple charities. This also paved the way for future athletes, particularly for high school kids who have a mini reveal for what school they would commit to.

The move

Here is the breakdown of the move. Cleveland sent LeBron via sign-and-trade to the Miami Heat for two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and a pick swap in 2012. Cleveland also received a trade exemption worth $15 million. 

Now, there is no way that you can replace LeBron, and the Heat paid 25 cents on the dollar. He now joins Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form their Big 3. LeBron is far too valuable because he turns any team into a title contender but at least Cleveland got some consolation.

I supported his move to Miami even if years later they would beat my San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. LeBron achieved a lot early in his career but people continued to criticize him for not having any playoff success, especially comparing him to Michael Jordan. However, if you remember those Cavs teams, they were not the best, to put it nicely, and the organization wasn’t going to do anything about it. The Cavs were riding on LeBron’s back and expecting the Cavs to win a title with that kind of philosophy was insane. Even Jordan had to wait for the Chicago Bulls to add Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, Phil Jackson, and other pieces before reaching success and the Cavs weren’t willing to do it. LeBron needed help—everyone does—but he wasn’t going to get it from Cleveland.

The aftermath

Of course, with LeBron leading, the Heat were able to win two championships.

But his decision to move to Miami changed the course of history. After that, players realized that they had the power to dictate where they wanted to go. Players used to get moved through trades despite having multiple years left on their contract but this was unprecedented. One player shifted the balance of power in the league. 

After LeBron showed them the way, the dominoes started to fall. Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook went to Los Angeles; Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden to Brooklyn (before the latter headed to Philadelphia); Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to the LA Clippers. Players are now able to leverage to get them into the situations that they want.

Today, we still feel the impact of this move. Players are still trying to leverage their way into the teams they want to play for but the league is trying to regain power as is the case of the Kevin Durant saga. We can see how even if the decision happened in 2010, we still have the effect over a decade later and it will continue to be talked about for years to come.

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