Welcome to our Decade of Basketball series, reminiscing about the greatest moments in the sport in the 2010s. Through video, we will relive the times from the last 10 years that bring goosebumps to the arms of those who witnessed them. Let’s celebrate the last decade of basketball and look forward to the next one we’re about to experience.
It’s incredible that all basketball fans, and really sports people, know precisely what you’re referring to when you say something as simple as, “The Decision,” but that’s how big of a deal it was when LeBron James chose to leave Cleveland … the first time.
The year was 2010. James had long cemented himself as a superstar in the NBA. He essentially carried Cleveland to its first NBA Finals appearance in 2007, which ended in a San Antonio Spurs sweep, and kept the team competitive for almost the entirety of his first stint there.
After seven years with the Cavs, James became a free agent. For months leading up to the end of the 2009-10 season, rumors swirled of where King James would land. Chicago, New York and Miami headlined the list of suitors, with a return to Cleveland also in the mix.
James and ESPN teamed up for him to announce his next team live on television and called the special, “The Decision.” The superstar famously told the world he was going to “take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
Perhaps even bigger than The Decision itself was the reaction. Cleveland burned jerseys, sports writers lambasted the dog and pony show, and NBA fans everywhere were left wondering how this would shape the league’s landscape for the decade to come.
The negativity surrounding The Decision was there before it happened, though. People grew tired of the drawn out process, and criticisms were levied ahead of time, too.
“Whatever happens, James’s decision to hijack prime time to make his announcement is an act of rather astounding egomania, and it highlights everything that has been wrong with the circus-like atmosphere of his brief free agency,” wrote The Boston Globe in an editorial the day of The Decision. “The wooing of James has been an embarrassing nationwide courtship ritual, with the various cities in contention producing videos, hosting rallies, and doing everything they can to lure the preening superstar. While James certainly could turn many NBA teams into title contenders and has lived up to the hype that followed him since his teenage years, the spectacle surrounding him – and the display of desperate obsequiousness directed at him – still serve as uneasy reminders of the often outsized role of sports in American culture.”
It was now almost 10 years ago that James and ESPN collaborated to make The Decision, and a lot has changed. People aren’t quite as quick to attack the superstar’s ego, and when he left Cleveland for a second time last summer, no one as much as batted an eye.
How fans view free agency, player transactions and team building has changed to some degree since 2010, and you have to consider the impact The Decision had on that, for better or for worse, as its role in the past Decade of Basketball.