LeBron James will play for the Miami Heat.
James announced his decision on national television, ending a wild week of speculation that began July 1 with NBA teams making midnight visits to James to begin trying to sell him on their club.
“The major factor was the opportunity to win, and the opportunity to win now,” James said.
James joins fellow free agents Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to form the nucleus of a new super team in Miami.
“Those are two great players, two of the greatest players we have in the game today, and now you add me and we have a really great team,” James said.
In an interview following the announcement, James cited the model set by the Celtics when they brought Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen together to form the Big Three and then won a championship in 2008. James said the Celtics’ Big Three made the players around them better, and that’s what he, Bosh and Wade intend to do in Miami.
This season, the Celtics eliminated the Heat from the playoffs in the first round, four games to one.
July 1 was the first time teams were allowed to contact free agents. Thursday was the first day free agents could begin signing contracts, although many teams and players announced verbal agreements prior to Thursday.
The Heat, Knicks, Bulls, Nets, Clippers and the Cavaliers all sought James, who was drafted by the Cavaliers out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Ohio with the first pick in the 2003 draft and has become one of the game’s top players.
During the broadcast, James was asked about is feelings about leaving Cleveland, the only team he’s played for since entering the NBA. James is from Akron, Ohio.
“I never wanted to leave Cleveland, and my heart will always be around that area, but I also felt like this is the greatest challenge for me is to move on,” James said.
“I feel like it’s time to change.”
James was the most sought-after free agent of a deep free agent class that included Bosh, a power forward, and Wade, a shooting guard. Both Bosh and Wade entered the NBA the same year as James and played on the 2008 Olympic team with him.
Teams started preparing for the chance to acquire James as much as two years ago by bringing in players whose contracts would expire in time to free up salary cap space to pay James the maximum allowed by NBA rules.
In seven seasons, James has averaged more than 27 points a game.