When LeBron James cast his lot with the Miami Heat on Thursday night, he gave birth to an "Evil Empire," declared Harvey Araton at The New York Times. The ominous triumvirate of James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh is sure to inspire New York Yankees-esque animosity across the NBA. And the drawn-out, self-indulgent media circus surrounding James's decision didn't win him any favors either.
Nevertheless, the people most affected by James's departure to South Beach are the denizens of Cleveland and Miami. Here's a snapshot of the local reactions in the respective cities:
- 'A Cowardly Betrayal,' writes Cavs owner Dan Gilbert in a fiery open letter to fans: "This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown 'chosen one' sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And 'who' we would want them to grow-up to become. But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called 'curse' on Cleveland, Ohio... In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight: 'I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER 'KING' WINS ONE' You can take it to the bank."
- Immaturity Personified, writes Terry Pluto at The Plain Dealer, Cleveland's daily newspaper: "Maybe this happens when you get too much, too soon. Maybe it happens when you forget where you came from, or what you mean to the people of Northeast Ohio. But LeBron James should feel a sense of shame and pain for putting together a self-serving ESPN special to inform the world that he no longer intends to play for the Cavaliers... Twenty-five year-olds are usually not the most mature people on the planet. Add in becoming worth $100 million at 18 and a global sports icon a few years later, and perhaps James was building up to this crass, sad moment. He lives in a celebrity bubble where it's very difficult to see any situation except through his own eyes, with his own sense of entitlement."
- He's a Frivolous Showboat Anyway, writes Bill Livingston at The Plain Dealer: "With James, there was always a childish, self-aggrandizing aspect to his game and a divided focus on the importance of winning. He was caught up in hosting the ESPYs and 'Saturday Night Live' or making a proposed movie. Such perks once followed winning, but in his case, they preceded it. He always wanted everyone to look at him. He valued trick shots, attempting looping, underhanded efforts from halfcourt before the game. He indulged in showy, copycat gestures like the pre-game powder throw. (Kevin Garnett did it first). He was not the winner we thought, not by a long shot in the Boston series. He was the fabulous curiosity, the bearded lady, the dancing bear."
- Get Over It, Cleveland, writes a pleased Greg Cote at the Miami Herald, the city's daily broadsheet: "Many people elsewhere in the country surely thought Thursday night's show was crass, unduly mean to the poor, jilted people of Cleveland, somehow just not right. I must tell you, though: Down here, Heat fans sort of liked it! Here in South Florida we weren't hearing the rest of the country's muttering complaint because were too busy blowing car horns, high-fiving strangers, doing shots to our unfathomably great luck, saying, 'Can you [bleep]ing believe it!?' and making sounds like this: WOOOOOOOOOOO! As for Cavaliers fans feeling angry and betrayed? Get over it, mi amigos. Players leave. Ever heard the phrase, `greener pastures'? Besides, when Column A is Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and living on South Beach and Column B is far less a supporting cast and living in Cleveland, well, let's just say Mensa membership is not required to reach the conclusion James did."
- Get Ready for a Championship, writes Israel Gutierrez at The Miami Herald: "This is going to be everything you've anticipated and then some, because these players are that level of great... People will doubt this trio and how good the Heat will be this upcoming season because it's in their nature not to accept it. But this is not just going to be off-the-charts exciting, with every game being the biggest social event in the state. It's going to be championship-level basketball right from the start."
- Not a Great Moment for Sports Journalism, writes Barry Jackson at the Miami Herald:
There was some misinformation that further erodes the public's trust. And throughout June, ESPN's coverage of James was over-the-top, dominated by speculation and guesswork in the absence of hard news...
You can blame ESPN for dragging out Thursday's announcement. James didn't disclose he would play for the Heat until 9:27 p.m., after ESPN assured Wednesday that he would reveal the team between 9:10 and 9:15 p.m.
And shame on Jim Gray and ESPN for asking 16 questions -- 16! -- before asking James the only one on anybody's mind: Which team will you play for?
The answers to those questions would have been more substantive, more meaningful, if he had revealed the winning team first. Remember, ESPN executive Norby Williamson said the network had editorial control over the show except for the presence of Gray, who was there because Maverick Carter, James' business partner, wanted him there.
And was there really a need for a three-hour, James-heavy SportsCenter before the announcement? ESPN gave James his own entry on ESPN's crawl the past week, even when news didn't warrant it.