First Cup: Friday

  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: "We are the kingdom now. Miami is the capital of basketball. South Florida is the epicenter of American sports. It became so by royal decree at 9:27 p.m. Eastern time, July 8, 2010. That is the moment when LeBron James -- audacious enough to call himself King and so great the dissenters are few -- chose the Miami Heat as his new basketball team over all other suitors in this landscape-quaking summer of NBA free agency. We had been told for more than a week to expect it. It was still stunning. ... So much of this NBA free agency process has seemed almost dirty. The behind-the-scenes collusion among friends. The obscene $125 million contracts. The culminating, self-worshipping made-for-TV special Thursday night. And yet, above it all, what ultimately brought James, Wade and Bosh together is a notion refreshingly old-school, almost quaint: Winning comes first. Now all they have to do is win. A lot. And for a long time."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "No one will pick the Cavs to contend for the title with Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams, Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson. But with some additions, the team does feel it can compete for a sixth consecutive playoff season. While there is still a chance that the Cavs could do a sign-and-trade with the Heat for James to get back future draft picks, it is unlikely they would take part in helping James go to another team. It is a virtual certainty that the Cavs would not get any players in return, which means they face the reality of losing James for nothing. The other reality is that the majority of the available top free agents have come to terms with other teams while the Cavs waited on James' decision. Thursday, the first day teams could sign free agents, saw a flurry of activity as the Cavs had to wait on the sidelines. In addition, without James the Cavs are not going to be an attractive free-agent destination. The team does have some things going for it. One is that for the first time since 2005, the Cavs will have salary cap space. That is the good news; the bad news is it isn't a large amount."

  • Mike Wise of The Washington Post: "But give King Fame this: On the night the NBA's No. 1 free agent proposedto Miami and dumped northeastern Ohio, at least the showman was smart enough to know that if he ever wanted to hoist a championship trophy, he needed a genuine leader such as Dwyane Wade to get him there. Oh, and he can't be Magic now. Or Bird. Or Michael. Or Isiah Thomas, Tim Duncan or Bill Russell or any other NBA supernova who stuck around long enough to win championships for a town and its people. LeBron can be Shaquille O'Neal, who left Orlando amid hard feelings to become a basketball mercenary in many more glorious pastures. He can be Kevin Garnett, who had to leave Minnesota to win it all. As a legacy guy, he needs to know: His decision to spurn the Cavaliers for more talent and hope in Miami forbids LeBron from ever being one of those all-time greats who persevered through coaching changes, roster changes and wrenching playoff losses to lift a trophy to the rafters for the team who drafted him. He didn't quit on Cleveland with his made-for-ESPN finale. But he did give up on the belief that the Cavaliers could surround him with the pieces he needed to stay on a championship path."

  • Jeff Rabjohns of The Indianapolis Star: "This bashing of LeBron James for creating a buzz around him strikes me as a little odd. Not that the overkill isn't crazy -- does he own ESPN or something? -- but the idea that he would create a situation then watch the debate turn into a buzz that mushrooms into nearly constant speculation centered on him, well, it isn't new. It seems people forget, he's been doing it since his junior year of high school. Remember, James was the one who petitioned the NBA to waive its rule that players had to finish high school to be eligible for the draft. What? A kid out of Ohio wants to be drafted as a high school junior? Who does this guy think he is? What's his story? Buzz. Anticipation. Curiosity. That petition, ultimately unsuccessful, kickstarted the hype machine, creating a void that needed to be filled, an anticipation of seeing a kid who thought he could play in the NBA at the time he would have been a senior in high school."

  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: "It's been a nonstop, 24/7 cycle of LeBron James since July 1, the first day teams could talk to pending free agents. To me, the last 7 days have been a commentary on the continually rising status of sports and the celebrity culture in our society. It's been fascinating to see how the advances in technology have changed the process of disseminating information. Most personally, this entire affair of daily rumors being presented as facts, of 'reliable sources' and "someone close to the situation" being given the credibility of an actual named person, of made-for-television specials with hand-picked networks and interviewers delivering news has further disheartened me about the declining stature of journalism. Reporting the news seems to be running a distant second to selling and marketing the news."

  • Bruce Arthur of the National Post: "No sports star has ever been this cruel, and no city had ever absorbed this calculated a knife to the throat. For LeBron James to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, and his hometown, is one thing; to do it on a specially arranged hour-long TV special after whipping the hype machine to its zenith — well, at least Robert Irsay was considerate enough to steal the Baltimore Colts away to Indianapolis under cover of night. Instead, LeBron crushed Cleveland, and left for Miami, and the history of sport was irrevocably altered. He will win titles in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, eventually. And he will do it as a villain. This was ruthless beyond measure, callous beyond belief. This was Art Modell with a CHOSEN1 tattoo across his impossibly broad shoulders. This was, for poor misbegotten Cleveland, a villain who had only pretended to be a hero. It’s not often a city’s heart gets broken on national TV."

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "LeBron James is the King, all right. The King of Crass. The King of Callous. The King of Cowardice. What kind of man arranges and stars in a nationally televised infomercial during which he kicks his hometown to the curb? What kind of man summons a crowd of millions to watch him break up with a city that has loved and supported him for 25 years? LeBron James dragged the Cleveland Cavaliers to the center table of the most crowded, well-lighted joint on the sports landscape Thursday night, then loudly dumped them on the spot. The basketball news is that two-time defending most valuable player James has announced he will be joining stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. The human news is that, almost overnight, one of basketball's most likable figures has turned into a complete jerk."

  • Jerry Briggs of the San Antonio Express-News: "Like most sports fans, Hall of Fame guard George Gervin sat at home Thursday night, watching the televised announcement that 'The King,' LeBron James, would be taking his crown to South Beach and the Miami Heat. 'I'm a sports guy,' said Gervin, a former four-time scoring champion with the Spurs. 'It's on all the (television) channels. It's in all the papers. All the talk shows are talking about it. They put it in our face. You couldn't really help but listen.' ... Gervin, who won NBA scoring titles with the Spurs in 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1982, said he wonders how James -- the modern-day scoring machine -- will adapt to a lineup with other superstars. 'It'll be interesting,' Gervin said. 'Is (James) going to be the same impact player, because you know there's gotta be some sacrifices. They'll all be averaging 20 ... or they'll be averaging 25. And who's going to play in the middle?' ... If nothing else, Gervin agreed that the hype and the attention focused on James and the free-agent bonanza has stirred interest in the NBA. Lots of eyes will be focused on the Heat -- and the league -- next season because of it. 'I still love the game,' Gervin said. 'I'm a part of its foundation, so I still love it. I got my favorite team, and it's here in San Antone. But I love to see good basketball.' "

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Someone texted me as LeBron’s announcement was made: 'Kobe just went to the gym.' Perhaps Mitch Kupchak called Derek Fisher’s agent with an extra million to offer. One of Jerry Buss’ sons, Joey, said via Twitter: 'My reaction? Bring it!' It’s entirely possible that the Heat’s new sizzle will only motivate the strong Orlando and Boston teams to be even better next season in the Eastern Conference. But there are definite similarities in talent as we imagine Mario Chalmers trying to be Rajon Rondo and Joel Anthony re-signing to try to be Kendrick Perkins, besides Mike Miller maybe being on his way. Maybe Erik Spoelstra, still only 39, can show why Pat Riley believes in him so ardently as Spoelstra enters his third season as an NBA head coach. The only sure thing right now is that Bryant’s chances for another NBA MVP trophy just rocketed skyward now that James’ insane statistics will spiral with two stars next to him. But that fact right there should crystallize in everyone’s mind the validity in James saying he just wants to win. James, 25, has learned that he needs more help than he got as MVP the past two seasons, leading Cleveland to the league’s best regular-season record before failing even to reach the NBA Finals. So he’s going to get it, swallowing the bait that that old winner within, Riley, guessed James really wanted."

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "The LeBron James Hour had about 15 minutes of worthwhile programming Thursday night, which was about 14 1/2 minutes more than I expected. There was an abundance of pomp and circumstance, for sure. And after LeBron confirmed what had been leaked to the world that morning -- that he will become a member of the Miami Heat -- only his seven-minute post-announcement interview with ESPN’s Michael Wilbon was worth watching. We saw King James not sitting atop a throne, but dressed conservatively in shortsleeved cotton shirt, jeans and Nike sneakers, trying his best to sound humble as he answered questions from Wilbon and Jim Gray. For that, I give James a little credit."

  • Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "LeBron was beloved because he had preached community and loyalty. He was the hometown kid made good, and that resonated in an area hard-hit economically. Yes, even more so than other locales in this country. He was a source of pride. He was one of them. And now he has abandoned them. That’s the way it will be framed. Is this fair? Should they have been able to hold him as an emotional hostage? Did he owe them anything at all? The good news for all of us is that this ordeal is over."