Any surprise this comes in at number one on the list?
UVO, play Jukebox. Take us back to July 8, 2010 (and apparently, outdated Blake Griffin Kia ad references). LeBron James is sitting on a stool at a Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich, Conn. (of all places) in front of Jim Gray, a bunch of kids, and 13 million people watching from home. He reveals to the world that he’s “taking his talents” to South Beach. Oh, and he’s wearing a ridiculous pizza parlor tablecloth button-down shirt that was almost louder than the rioting Cavs fans.
The 75-minute televised “Decision” is ingrained in any basketball fan’s memory. People called LeBron self-centered, egomaniacal, and treacherous. Cleveland fans burned his jersey and Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert wrote a scathing letter rife with racist undertones directed at the King for being a quitter by not fulfilling his promise to bring a championship back to the Land.
LeBron’s Decision was unprecedented in many ways. He wasn’t just leaving his hometown team—he told the world about it on national television. He wasn’t just a dude bolting for greener pastures; He was the best player in basketball fast-tracking his path to an elusive NBA championship. He was forming a super team with two of his friends (who happened to also be pretty darn good at basketball), Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, to establish the first free agency-bred Big 3. Because of his decision, LeBron went from the King who everyone revered to the villain.
How LeBron’s free agency went down represents a culmination of the shift of power from ownership to player. You can even argue Durant wouldn’t have pulled the trigger on signing with the Dubs if LeBron hadn’t done it first.
Half the league showed up at LeBron’s doorstep just for an opportunity to pitch him on their teams and cities. It happened for LaMarcus Aldridge last year, it’s happened for KD this year, and you can bet it’ll happen for Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul next year.
Yes, LeBron won back-to-back titles with Miami, legitimizing (for some) his status as the world’s best player. He became a winner in South Beach, even though he couldn’t bring the city five, six, or seven championships as he promised. Despite how you feel about LeBron, the impact of his decision on NBA free agency was monumental. It demonstrated that in today’s league the players, not management, wield the power.