MIAMI (Reuters) - Cleveland were left mourning the departure of LeBron James as Miami woke to the news Friday that the NBA’s best player was joining them next season and already talking up the prospect of winning the championship.
The Miami Herald newspaper triumphantly announced his pending arrival to Florida with the front-page headline: “JACKPOT!” and a cheeky picture of James in his now redundant Cavaliers jersey.
As Miami celebrated their coup, the mood in Cleveland was unsurprisingly downcast after they had lost the NBA’s two-time Most Valuable Player. The Plain Dealer’s headline simply read “Gone” and included a full-page photograph of James walking away.
Underneath, there was a caption encapsulating James’ decision to ditch the Cavaliers: “7 years in Cleveland. No rings” with an arrow pointing to his ringless right hand.
The contrasting mood in the cities followed the eagerly-awaited announcement by James as to where he would play next season.
Six teams courted the player known as “the king” but it was Miami’s offer to team him up with fellow All Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that persuaded James to leave his home state.
“You have to move on for the better. And that’s how I feel,” James explained in an interview broadcast on U.S. morning television.
“It hurts. It definitely hurts. It hurts me to say that I’m moving on. But I have to do what’s best.”
James led the Cavaliers, who play just up the road from his hometown of Akron, Ohio, to the 2007 NBA Finals but the team has never won an NBA championship.
In each of the past two years, inspired by his brilliant performances, the Cavaliers finished the regular season as the best team in the Eastern Conference but were knocked out of the playoffs early, leaving James to ponder what might have been if he was at another team.
In the end, he was blunt about his reasons for leaving, even revealing that he was taking a salary cut to pursue his dream of winning a title, but his comments only triggered a swift and brutal fallout with the city and team that once adored him.
“If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our ‘motivation’ to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels,” Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert wrote in an open letter to team supporters.
Writing by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Julian Linden