TORONTO, (Reuters) – The decision by LeBron James to join the Miami Heat along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh creates an instant powerhouse that will be expected by many to rule the NBA for years to come.
In the span of a little more than 24 hours, the league saw three of its most dominant players agree to play for the Heat, which instantly makes the team a legitimate contender to deny the Los Angeles Lakers a third straight championship.
So after months of speculation that heated up when James’s Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals this year, the two-times reigning NBA Most Valuable Player opted for a change of scenery.
“The things that the Miami Heat franchise have done to be able to free up cap space and to be able to put themselves in a position this summer to have all three of us, it was hard to turn down,” James said Thursday in a interview on cable network ESPN.
“This is going to give me the best opportunity to win and to win for multiple years, and not only just to win in the regular season … I want to be able to win championships and I feel like I can compete down there.”
The Heat, who were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs in April, now boast three players who were among the top 10 in points per game last season. No one team had three players in the top 30 in scoring last season.
James, Wade and Bosh all entered the league in 2003 and their last contracts were structured in a way that allowed them all to hit the open market at the same time.
Wade, who has played his entire career in Miami, said on Wednesday he would stick with the team while Bosh decided to leave the Toronto Raptors, who drafted him fourth overall in 2003, for Miami.
James, the most prized free agent available who was courted by six teams in the past week, completes a powerful trio and easily makes the team an immediate threat in the league.
Still, assembling the three on the one roster is no sure recipe for success. To even get a shot at an NBA title they will have to contend with a competitive Eastern Conference that includes the 2008 NBA champion Boston Celtics, the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how well they play together,” Raptors head coach Jay Triano told Reuters. “There is only one basketball and someone is going to have to make sacrifices if they are going to be better and it will be interesting to see how they try to make that happen.”
The three talented players were all part of the 2008 gold medal-winning U.S. basketball team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and will be expected to show the same winning form in Miami.
The decisions by James and Bosh to flee their former teams deal major blows to the Cleveland and Toronto franchises, both of whom will need to make up for the lost offensive production.
With their marquee players gone, they will undoubtedly suffer from sagging attendance.
It also breaks the hearts of many Cavaliers fans who had hoped James, born in Akron, Ohio, would return to Cleveland and help bring the franchise its first NBA championship.
“I don’t even see it like leaving Cleveland is the whole logistics of it,” said James. “It’s about joining forces with the other two guys. I felt like I respected their game the most and I felt like we have a great chance of winning and winning for multiple years.”
After the announcement, some people burned replica number 23 James jerseys in the Cleveland’s city streets.
Wade, who led the Heat to a championship in 2006 is the only one of the group to win an NBA title. Bosh has never been past the first round of the playoffs with the Raptors and the closest James has been to a championship is a four-game sweep in the 2007 Finals.