As we approach the 10-year anniversary of LeBron James’ infamous decision, we have started a series remembering the occasion in which we break down everything that happened each day of 2010 free agency leading up to James’ momentous announcement that he’d be joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as a member of the Miami Heat.
On Day 3, James was set to meet with the Chicago Bulls and the incumbent Cleveland Cavaliers. Let’s take a look at how those meetings went.
CLEVELAND GOES FIRST
First up for James and his team was a meeting with the home club, the Cavaliers.
Cleveland’s group that met with James included new head coach Byron Scott, general manager Chris Grant and assistant general manager Lance Blanks, as well as owner Dan Gilbert.
Before the meeting, the Cavs strategically created a tunnel of fans where they had hundreds of people line down the street to welcome James to his important face-to-face. The meeting itself was light in tone and went shorter than his other meetings, lasting just an hour-and-a-half.
Cleveland shared a similar light-hearted video with James during their meeting, but instead of using characters from The Sopranos in theirs like New York did, they turned James and his friends into something that looked like characters of Family Guy:
“Knowing James as well as they do, the Cavs, who were represented by owner Dan Gilbert, new coach Byron Scott, general manager Chris Grant and assistant GM Lance Blanks, tried to lighten things up by showing the 25-year-old a cartoon featuring him and his friends as characters. The team had an animated video made in the style of ‘Family Guy’ – one of James’ favorite TV shows – that depicted some inside jokes and locker-room humor as the Cavaliers reminded James that he is indeed part of their extended family. James was joined in the meetings by business manager Maverick Carter, close friend Randy Mims and agent Leon Rose.”
The Cavaliers’ video also included music from Gladiator, which was strategically included as it was one of James’ favorite films.
Regardless, the Cavs’ actual pitch was more so about the financial advantages James would have if he re-signed in Cleveland (they could offer $30 million more on a max contract than any other team) and the fact that they believed they had a championship-caliber roster if James were to stay.
The former was certainly a fact but the latter was far more questionable, and James probably knew that back in 2010, too.
CHICAGO UP NEXT
The Chicago group who met with James and Co. featured team owner Jerry Reinsdorf, vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, general manager Gar Forman and head coach Tom Thibodeau, and – surprise, surprise – they left their meeting with the MVP forward optimistic… just like every team that met with him before them.
To be fair, the Knicks’ optimism faded quickly as reports surfaced by July 2 that New York’s completely odd pitch to James (which included a video featuring Tony Soprano) went over like a lead balloon. The other three teams, however, Chicago, Miami and New Jersey, were all feeling good about their chances as of July 3.
The Bulls’ pitch to James was focused on the following:
“Chicago is hoping the chance to follow Michael Jordan’s larger-than-life legacy, a talented roster featuring rising star guard Derrick Rose and forward Joakim Noah, and nearly $30 million of space under the salary cap will be enough to lure James to the Windy City.”
A solid pitch, and it’s interesting to imagine what a lineup featuring Derrick Rose (who would win league MVP the season following), defensive, playmaking maestro Joakim Noah and James would have looked like. Odds are, they would have done some serious damage. After all, without James in 2010-11, Chicago won 62 games and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Anyway, James’ meeting with the Bulls lasted three hours and because it took place in Cleveland, the SUVs carrying Chicago’s brass in it were booed by fans as they departed their face-to-face with James.
Also somewhat interesting about that meeting was the fact that James showed up to it rocking Air Jordan sneakers, which was undoubtedly done more so to spark up interest from fans and get the media talking rather than to actually spoil what James was thinking regarding where he would sign.
Either way, another meeting down with the team feeling cautiously optimistic about how it went.
KNICKS LAND SECOND MEETING… SORT OF
New York, reportedly furious about reports from July 2 that declared them dead in the James sweepstakes, attempted a Hail Mary on Saturday night, landing a second meeting with James’ team.
James himself didn’t attend, nor did his right-hand man Maverick Carter, but his agent, Leon Rose, did, as did Knicks senior vice president Glen Grunwald and Garden president Scott O’Neil. The point of the meeting was to pitch James on playing with Amare Stoudemire, who had given New York a verbal commitment that Saturday.
Per the New York Daily News on July 3, 2010:
“Knicks officials remain confident that James will seriously consider leaving Cleveland for New York despite reports to the contrary. On Saturday, The News quoted a Knicks source as saying it was ‘very doubtful’ the team would end up with the biggest free agent on the market. […] The Knicks’ goal was to demonstrate to James’ reps that the franchise is committed to building a winner and wants James and Stoudemire to be the foundation. Grunwald is the Knicks’ salary cap guru and his presence at the meeting in Ohio likely means that he wanted to lay out the team’s plans for adding more free agents. The Knicks will have enough salary cap space to add an elite free agent next summer as well.”
Stoudemire and James could have formed quite the pairing, at least for a year or two before injuries ended the big man’s prime prematurely, but it ultimately wouldn’t be enough to convince James to join the Knicks.
ELSEWHERE THAT DAY
In the sports world, even tennis superstars were sharing their thoughts about where James was headed. Tennis GOAT Serena Williams actually told the media that James should stay in Cleveland, an opinion that the majority of fans shared back in 2010.
According to ESPN, James would no longer be deciding on Monday as had been previously reported, and the decision itself would come at some point later in the week.
We were still five days away.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.