LeBRON JAMES wanted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The only place that could happen was Miami.
Get ready, NBA: A superstar trio is born.
Ending weeks of silence and drama, the two-time MVP said on his ESPN special from Greenwich, Conn., last night that he's decided to join the Miami Heat and leave the Cleveland Cavaliers after an unsuccessful 7-year quest for the championship he covets.
"I can't say it was always in my plans, because I never thought it was possible," James said. "But the things that the Miami Heat franchise have done, to free up cap space and be able to put themselves in a position this summer to have all three of us, it was hard to turn down. Those are two great players, two of the greatest players that we have in this game today."
Olympic teammates in Beijing, James, Bosh and Wade all helped deliver gold medals.
This time, it'll be about a gold trophy, the NBA championship one - the one Wade got in 2006, the one that James and Bosh have yet to touch.
"Winning is a huge thing for me," James said.
It's a huge victory for the Heat, who got commitments from Wade and Bosh on Wednesday. That duo, along with James, formed the upper echelon of the most celebrated free-agent period in league history.
Heat president Pat Riley landed them all, a three-pack of stars to help shape his quest for a dynasty in Miami.
And for Cleveland, a city scorned for generations by some of sports' biggest letdowns, James' long-awaited words represented a defeat perhaps unlike any other.
James, who is from Ohio, is gone. Home sweet home no more.
He said he made the decision yesterday morning and knows it won't go over well in Ohio.
"They can have mixed emotions, of course," James said, adding that Akron will "always be home for me."
His new home - part-time or otherwise - wasted no time in beginning the celebration. Horns honked outside the arena and on Miami Beach, where Wade was watching the announcement with members of his inner circle.
"It's going to be crazy," Wade said.
In Cleveland, the immediate reaction was predictably filled with outrage. Television images showed at least one fan burning James' No. 23 wine-and-gold jersey.
"I can't get involved in that," James said. "I wanted to do what was best for LeBron James . . . At the end of the day, I feel awful. I feel even worse that I wasn't able to bring an NBA championship to that city.
"To my real fans out there, I hope that you'll continue to support me all the way to Miami."
James met with six teams on the free-agent recruiting circuit, and said the process was "everything I thought, and more."
"We are disappointed that LeBron James did not pick the New York Knicks, but we respect his decision," Knicks president Donnie Walsh said.
James, Bosh and Wade entered the pros in the same year, the respective Nos. 1, 4 and 5 picks in the 2003 draft. They went their separate ways: James to Cleveland, Bosh to Toronto and Wade to Miami, where he won a championship partnered with center Shaquille O'Neal in 2006. That year, James, Bosh and Wade all signed matching contracts to make sure they were all unrestricted free agents at the same time.
This wasn't about money, though. Wade and Bosh both said they would take fewer dollars to make this happen. And that, combined with what Riley and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said to James on the recruiting tour, was enough to pull off the stunner.
Season-ticket sales for the Heat's coming 41-game season were suspended yesterday afternoon after the entire supply of available seats were sold out. Not every seat has been released for sale yet and some will be held back for single-game purchases at the 19,600-capacity arena.
Meanwhile, the Heat made more room for LeBron, agreeing to send forward Michael Beasley to the Timberwolves in exchange for Minnesota's 2011 second-round pick and a swap of future first-round picks.