Basketball superstar LeBron James said Thursday night he will head for South Beach next season and play for the Miami Heat. James joins Heat star Dwayne Wade and rising talent Chris Bosh, who recently signed with the team.
"This is the best opportunity for me to win now and to win into the future," James said on ESPN. "Those are two of the best players in the NBA, and now they have me. We're going to be a really good team."
James will sign a five-year deal with Miami worth $96 million.
Months of Speculation at an End
James's decision ends months of speculation over where the hoops great would land. He's been the subject of intense lobbying campaigns by officials in Cleveland, New York, Chicago and Miami. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has repeatedly urged James to come to New York. President Barack Obama has said he hoped James would join the Chicago Bulls.
Minutes after James announced his decision, ESPN broadcast images of Cleveland fans burning his jersey in the street.
James made the announcement in an unusual one-hour telecast on ESPN, broadcast from The Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, Conn., which will receive proceeds from television ads during the hour. Billed by ESPN as the "most coveted free agent in NBA history," James, 25, is certainly the biggest superstar the NBA has seen since Michael Jordan.
Over the last seven years, James has single-handedly transformed the Cleveland Cavaliers from one of the worst teams in the NBA into a championship contender. The Cavs made James the No. 1 pick of the 2003 NBA draft. Before he had played a single game, James had struck a $90 million endorsement deal with Nike.
"This process has been everything I've thought and more," James told interviewer Jim Gray. "But it ultimately came down to where I thought I could win the most."
Goodbye Cleveland: LeBron James Spurns New York and Others for Miami Heat