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.
So far, we’ve covered Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 pre-Decision, when James met with the New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Heat, and Chicago had some positive momentum after a successful meeting with James.
On Day 4 and 5, things went quiet, with teams awaiting James to announce… anything.
A QUIET HOLIDAY
It’s hard to believe now, but a decade ago, things went a bit more slowly in free agency, so the 4th of July, 2010, was nearly silent on the LeBron front.
The only bit of news we got that day about his free agency was that James had a three-day Nike camp in Akron coming up and that his decision wouldn’t come until after that was over.
(It’s crazy that a pretty important update regarding LeBron James’ free agency would only get 101 retweets, but Twitter was still in its infancy back then.)
MONDAY ROLLS AROUND
Monday, July 5, 2010, began with news that Amare Stoudemire had agreed to join the Knicks for a five-year, $100 million contract. One of the first things Stoudemire said when news came out of his agreement with New York was that he planned to reach out to James and continue the recruitment effort for the Knicks.
It might not have been a James, a Wade or a Bosh, but New York landing Stoudemire, who was coming off four straight All-Star campaigns, was a pretty big deal and signaled that the Knicks were serious about trying to turn into contenders.
The New York Yankees’ general manager, Brian Cashman, was confident Stoudemire would be successful in helping New York land James, telling the media:
‘LeBron James is going to be a Knick,’ the New York Yankees’ general manager said Monday after hearing the news that Amare Stoudemire had agreed in principle to play his home games at Madison Square Garden. ‘I’m convinced of it. New York is the place that will allow LeBron to be the player and person he wants to be, and it’s all coming together. Just listen, LeBron James will be a Knick.’
In Cleveland, meanwhile, James made a surprise appearance at Nike skills camp, looking in great shape and working out with Chris Paul and various college and pro prospects.
One thing that gave Cavs fan some hope that day was the fact that at the Nike camp, James was seen coaching up Christian Eyenga, a Cavaliers first-round draft pick from 2009:
“Joining James was Cavaliers first-round pick Christian Eyenga and former Cavaliers Damon Jones and Ron Harper. It could be viewed as a good sign that Eyenga was invited and James seemed to be coaching him at times, or that could be looking too much into James’ future. Eyenga, who spent last season playing in Europe, will join the Cavs’ summer league team in a couple weeks in Las Vegas.”
Eyenga would go on to play just 51 total games in the NBA, averaging 6.3 points and 2.7 rebounds for the Cavs and Los Angeles Lakers.
As James left the camp, however, he poured cold water all over any and all speculation that he had made a decision, shaking his head no when asked if he knew who he was signing with or if he had a timetable for an announcement.
James taking his time with announcing who his next team would be was a source of frustration league-wide, as it caused Wade and Bosh to delay their decisions, which pretty much put a halt on major free-agent moves in the summer of 2010.
As one league exec told CBS Sports back on July 5, 2010:
“‘We are all witnesses right now to this charade,’ one frustrated team executive said Monday as Day Five of LeBron-a-Palooza (term coined, I believe, by Newsday’s Alan Hahn) rolled on. […] Wade returned Monday morning to Miami, where about 50 Heat fans – wow, what a turnout – and some team employees were waiting to greet him. At the wrong terminal. Wade was later seen at American Airlines Arena with Heat owner Mickey Arison. Such is life in the grips of the black smoke monster known as the Summer of 2010.”
James and Wade delaying making any sort of announcements about their future – just to re-sign with the teams they were already on, as it looked like was going to happen that Monday – would have particularly irked a lot of people, both inside the NBA and those who follow the league closely.
Of course, that’s not what would go on to happen.
MORE CAVS OPTIMISM
A report from Yahoo! Sports that Monday gave Cleveland fans even more hope about their chances at keeping Jame:
A week ago, most teams believed they were chasing the Chicago Bulls for James, but that’s flipped in the past days and hours. ‘My gut tells me Cleveland,’ an executive in the James chase told Yahoo! Sports on Sunday. ‘From what I hear now, it’s his decision alone. No outside influences.'”
Those outside influences the executive was talking about was namely William Wesley, also known as World Wide Wes, who has recently been hired as part of the Knicks’ revamped front office in 2020, and back in 2010 was thought of a major proponent within James’ camp in trying to get him to leave Cleveland.
With Wesley supposedly out of the picture regarding James’ impending decision, the Cavs grew more confident than they had been in a while about their chances of keeping their transcendent forward:
“Cleveland executives are still on edge, but privately feeling far more confident now than they did weeks ago. As much as anything, William Wesley has been muscled out of the process in the past week or so, with teams insisting that communication to James goes directly through his business manager Maverick Carter. So unnerved over World Wide Wes’ ubiquitous presence in the process, Carter had to go public to undermine Wesley’s credibility and proclaim his own power. The wresting back of power into James’ Akron-based camp goes a long way to securing the Cavs’ chances for re-signing James.”
That wound up not happening, but the report gives you a good idea of what the thinking out of Cleveland was that Monday back in early July 2010.
It also helps explain why Cavs owner Dan Gilbert had such a public meltdown when James’ decision went public; Cleveland legitimately thought they had a shot at keeping James late into the process. We’ll talk more about that in another article, however.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.