Well, it's official: LeBron James is going to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for the Miami Heat next season (presumably by then the Heat will have added other players). So who are the big winners and losers now that LeDecision has been made? Let's break it down.
MIAMI HEAT. Well, this one is rather self-explanatory. If you walk away from the most vaunted free agency class in NBA history with the top three players, you are by definition THE winner. Aside from the melodrama of how LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will co-exist, the Heat will face quite a few problems actually filling out their roster since they can more or less only add minimum salary players (in addition to their four second-round picks) -- although ditching Michael Beasley for more cap space certainly helps matters. It shouldn't be too tough to convince some ring-hungry vets to sign on as mercenaries for a season or two. And even if the Heat can't acquire enough depth to win a title in 2010, they will pick up their mid-level and biannual exceptions next summer (they don't have either this summer because they are under the cap), meaning they should field an even stronger team in the future.
CHRIS BOSH. After years of toiling in relative obscurity in Toronto, Bosh will finally gain some notoriety as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade's
lapdog sidekick in Miami. Yes, he may be a bit of dweeb, but now casual fans may finally appreciate that he's a legit top-15 player in the league.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS. Sure, Donald Sterling's club didn't land the Global Icon, but at least they were in the running, as they triumphantly pointed out last week. That's a step up for them. And hey look, they just signed Ryan Gomes! What, that's not The Decision™ everyone was waiting on?
ANTHONY RANDOLPH. With LeBron James spurning the chance to hold court in MSG, the Knicks and Warriors have finalized their David Lee-for-Anthony Randolph sign and trade deal (with Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf also headed to the Big Apple). For the tantalizing Randolph, who was constantly and somewhat inexplicably in Don Nelson's doghouse in Golden State, the move to New York gives him a chance to flourish in Mike D'Antoni's uptempo system with the Knicks. The change of scenery to the big stage in NYC might be just what Randolph needs.
TOM IZZO. Talk about dodging a bullet. Instead of being stuck in basketball purgatory, coaching the LeBron-less Cavs, izzo returns to the sidelines in East Lansing to a ridiculously loaded Michigan State squad coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances, with a top-five recruiting class on the way in.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS. Is this the worst moment in Cleveland sports history? [afraid to say anything]. Will LeBron end up being more hated in Cleveland than Art Modell? Or John Elway? And is there anything crueler than breaking up with your hometown team on a manufactured, made-for-TV special?
NEW YORK KNICKS. When you essentially forfeit the past two seasons to clear cap space to chase LeBron and you don't get LeBron...well, there's not much left to say. At least the Knicks haven't been completely shut out, landing Amar'e Stoudemire and trading for Anthony Randolph, but still, losing out on LeBron is a stomach punch for the Knicks faithful.
CHICAGO BULLS. There are levels of losing. The Bulls would have had a dynasty had LeBron chosen to join them, but they hadn't based everything around The King like Cleveland or New York, so it's not quite as bad for Chicago. Still, it's painful for Bulls fans to wonder of what might have been had James come to the Second City, but watching a core of Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer develop the next few seasons isn't a bad consolation prize.
BYRON SCOTT. Is it too late for Scott to reconsider his decision to come on board as the Cavs' next coach? Yes? Oops. I'm guessing Scott didn't come on board to coach Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao. Sans LeBron, are the Cavs even a playoff team? In a not too deep Eastern conference, maybe. But probably not.
ERIK SPOELSTRA. Who actually believes the report that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will remain on the sidelines for the franchise this coming season? Anyone, anyone? Bueller? The Heat are saying all the right things about Spoelstra being the guy, but the first time Miami has anything resembling a losing streak won't Pat Riley pull a Stan Van Gundy, and unseat his former protegé, as he did in 2005? Expect Spoelstra to decide to "take some time away from the game to be with his family" once January rolls around.
WORLD WIDE WES. He's supposed to be THE power broker in the NBA, pulling all the strings from the shadows. At one point he was rumored to be pushing for John Calipari to leave Kentucky and join forces with LeBron in Cleveland. Then he was supposed to be telling James to leave the Cavs for the Bulls. But apparently somewhere along the way, Wes lost his pull with The King, and LeBron's long-time right-hand hand, Maverick Carter, helped guide James to Miami. What do you call a power broker who doesn't have power?
VITAMIN WATER. First, they trotted out "DecisionWater". That was bad enough. Then they inundated us with a baffling ad featuring LeBron James with his face was entirely covered by a basketball hoop, while he explained that he liked Vitamin Water because drinking it meant he didn't need "extreme aromatherapy". Not to go all Mad Men here, but let's not overthink things: just show LeBron James holding/drinking your product and dunking a basketball. Bonus points for a catchy jingle (i.e. "Be like Mike). Oh, and make sure you can actually see his face. McDonald's has this more or less figured out; it's not rocket science.
US. Admit it, you couldn't resist watching The Decision. The combination of the surrealness, hype, anticipation, and mystery of it all sucked you in. And then you sat through an hour of painfully drawn-out television, with Jim Gray making fans wish he'd awkwardly berate LeBron about betting on baseball rather than asking contrived questions, artificially building the suspense. In the end, we were all victims of the LeBron hype machine. At least on that score, The King wins.