3-fete: It might have been Miami-Wade County, but for now, the buzz of LeBron taking over HeatBy Tim Reynolds, AP
Friday, July 9, 2010
Welcome to Miami, LeBron, as Heat begin the party
MIAMI — Dressed in a white Heat uniform for the first time, LeBron James took a look at his new home crowd, folded his arms across his chest and nodded.
The MVP has taken center stage in Miami.
Reviled in Cleveland, revered in Miami. Welcome to South Florida, LeBron.
“It feels right,” James said. “To be in this position, to wear the Heat uniform, everything is nice. We’re going to make the world know that the Heat is back.”
Naturally, James promised championships. Multiple championships.
Let a new era of Heat basketball begin.
“That’s the only reason I’m here, man,” James said.
With 13,000 fans chanting “Yes We Did!” and “Beat L.A.” — already eyeing the two-time defending champion Lakers — all amid an atmosphere more suited to a rock concert than a basketball game, the Miami Heat welcomed the NBA’s newest trio of superstars Friday night for a celebration unlike just about any other in team history.
“We know what the fans want,” James said.
James, Heat favorite Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all arrived accompanied by plumes of smoke, lifted into the air on a forklift for their grand arrival.
Great fanfare. Great expectations.
“It’s still surreal, man,” Wade said earlier. “Me, Chris and ‘Bron. We ready. We want to go to the gym now.”
Wade was in the middle as the trio was lifted skyward for the entrance — Bosh on his right, James on his left. Bosh pointed to the fans and screamed, while Wade aimed his index fingers at the crowd and James strutted about to the fans’ delight.
They walked down the stairs to a long runway, slapping high-fives with fans, clapping their hands and soaking in the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Heat continued working on sign-and-trade deals for both players, and tried to clear space for Udonis Haslem — Wade’s teammate for seven seasons and someone the 2006 NBA finals MVP wants back for the next chapter.
“This is surpassing a dream come true,” Wade said. “You always want to put yourself in the best position possible. To have an opportunity to team up with arguably the best trio to ever play the game of basketball is amazing.”
Heat broadcaster Eric Reid called them the “Three Kings” as the program got under way an hour behind schedule, presumably because of the trade talks, which Heat president Pat Riley said were all formally completed around 11 p.m. but did not offer the terms. Keys to the city were set to be awarded to each star, and Gov. Charlie Crist was in the stands, along with several city and county officials.
“We wanted to come here, then LeBron wanted to come,” Bosh said. “Let’s get it done, man. Let’s get this thing going.”
Riley — the mastermind of the deals — and coach Erik Spoelstra sat in the stands, as did owner Micky Arison, all of them beaming.
Fans were given posters with James, Wade and Bosh together in Heat uniforms — “Yes. We. Did.” was the slogan in big white letters — and crowded around a runway surrounded by video screens and smoke effects.
“We here now,” James said. “And we’re here for a long time.”
Wade, Bosh and James all signed their contracts earlier Friday night, each taking less than they could have made elsewhere, though neither the players, their agents or the team would disclose financial terms. They could have started around $16.6 million for the coming season.
“They’re going to be here for a while,” Riley said, adding, “all three of these gentlemen up here are going to be here for a long time and they’re going to be here for a long time for us to enjoy, thoroughly enjoy.”
If Riley gets his way, the party will be the first of many for the NBA’s newest star cluster — a grouping everyone, even Wade, is still getting used to.
“When I look around and see No. 6 and No. 1 on the court with me, that’s when it’s going to see real,” Wade said.
Until now, No. 6 meant Mario Chalmers, No. 1 meant Dorell Wright.
Chalmers will be back (wearing No. 15, his college number, probably) and Wright still could return, but going forward those digits belong to others.
James will wear No. 6 instead of his usual 23. Bosh will don No. 1 instead of No. 4, Wade said, because he “wanted a new beginning.”
And even Wade — who considers his No. 3 sacred — thought about switching his number as well.
“Then I realized, three is magical, and now it represents more than just my number,” Wade said. “It represents the three of us making sacrifices as well.”
The jersey numbers aren’t all that important.
They just want the winning to be easy as 1-2-3.
Wade and Bosh decided Tuesday that they would play together in Miami, releasing that information to the world on Wednesday. With that, it was all up to James, who said he decided Thursday morning — hours before his made-for-TV announcement special that night — that he’d join the Heat and form a power triple.
Turns out, some members of the Heat family had more than an inkling that James was coming long before that show.
“I knew this was going to evolve a while ago,” Heat executive Alonzo Mourning said Friday. “We knew a long time ago. We did our due diligence on our recruiting trip, and we had a good feeling about this. When we came back, we knew that it pretty much was going to evolve in our favor.”
The end result was three of the top nine scorers in the league last season, the two-time reigning MVP in James, their own superstar (who said he wouldn’t have stayed if either Bosh or James hadn’t come to Miami) and reason to believe the franchise’s wild pendulum — NBA’s best in 2006, NBA’s worst in 2008 — is on a decided upswing.
“It’s going to take all of us to do it,” Wade said.
On Friday in Miami, the scene was sheer bliss.
James’ jerseys weren’t even going on hangers inside the Miami team store; for the most part, they were getting sold as soon as they could be taken out of the box. A line of fans snaked around the arena on a steamy morning just to put their names on a waiting list for tickets. The switchboard at AmericanAirlines Arena was overwhelmed for much of the day, and the 13,000 free seats for the welcoming bash were made available online at 4 p.m. — and were gone in an hour.
“The road to history,” James wrote early Friday on Twitter, “starts now.”
And there will be nights, like this one, filled with spectacle.
Glitz and glamour, for sure — but Wade said the NBA’s newest Big 3 can handle the hype.
“Yeah, it’s going to be Hollywood down here,” Wade said. “But when we step on the court, it’s going to be about business. And everyone who wants to be part of this organization is going to have to make that sacrifice.”
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