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The Miami Heat won the LeBron James sweepstakes, adding the National Basketball Association’s reigning two-time Most Valuable Player to an all-star squad that also will include Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
James said in a nationally televised show on ESPN tonight that he’ll sign a free-agent contract with Miami, completing the transformation of the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
Wade, Bosh and James played on the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics. Miami hasn’t won a playoff series since capturing the NBA championship in 2006.
Teams including the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls vied for the 25-year-old James, who decided to leave Cleveland after spending his first seven pro seasons with the Cavaliers.
James’s move to Miami is the latest personnel coup for Micky Arison, 61, the billionaire owner of the Heat and chairman of Carnival Corp., the biggest cruise-line operator.
In his 15 years as the team’s managing general partner, Arison has won an NBA title and brought in All-Stars such as Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal, in addition to James, Bosh and Wade. He also installed Pat Riley as coach in 1995 and then team president.
In December 2009, Forbes magazine estimated the value of the Heat at $364 million, 12th highest among the 30 NBA franchises. “For a franchise that cost $32.5 million in the mid-80s and now is worth over 10 times that, a Lebron James-Wade-Bosh trilogy will immediately raise the value of the franchise to a significant degree and lead to significant incremental marketing dollars beyond that and increase the chances of a dynasty, which will raise the value even further,” Rick Horrow, a Miami-based sports consultant who is a contributing editor to Bloomberg Television, said today in a phone interview. ‘A Small Impact’ Russ Granik, the NBA’s deputy commissioner for 30 years and now vice chairman of Galatioto Sports Partners in New York, said today in an e-mail that James’s signing would have “a small impact” on the Heat’s value.
“If the three of them play as well as people project, that’s going to put more people in the stands, create more sponsorships and that could have an effect over time on revenue,” Granik said. “I don’t believe it would have a great impact on the franchise value because, no matter how good things turn out, it’s only for a limited amount of time.” Sales of season tickets for Heat games next season were suspended this afternoon after all currently available seats sold out, the Associated Press reported. Billionaires’ Club James, who has said he aspires to join friend Warren Buffett as a billionaire, was named the world’s second-most powerful athlete this year in a ranking by Bloomberg BusinessWeek — trailing golfer Tiger Woods, with whom James shares a Dec. 30 birthday.
LeBron Raymone James skipped college and jumped from high school to the NBA at 18. He had a $90 million shoe contract with Nike Inc., the world’s largest athletic shoemaker, before playing his first pro game. He also endorses McDonald’s Corp., the world’s biggest restaurant company; Coca-Cola Co., the world’s biggest soft-drink maker; and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the largest U.S. home and auto insurer. James, a 6-foot-8 forward, has career averages of 27.8 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game. When he arrived in Cleveland as the No. 1 draft pick in 2003, the Cavaliers hadn’t won a playoff series in a decade. The Cavaliers reached the NBA Finals in 2007 and had the best regular-season record in each of the past two seasons. Rising Value Cleveland was coming off a 17-65 season when James, who grew up 40 miles away in Akron, Ohio, joined the team. Average attendance was 11,497, the lowest in the league.
This past season, the Cavaliers were second in the NBA with an average of 20,562 fans a game. During James’s stay, the team’s value increased from $258 million to $476 million, according to Forbes magazine’s ranking of NBA franchises. The Heat, who ranked 15th in the NBA in average home attendance last season, cleared an NBA-high $43.3 million in salary cap space to be able to pay James, Wade and Bosh close to the $16.6 million maximum allowed for free agents in the first year of a new contract.
Wade announced yesterday on ESPN that he will re-sign with Miami after considering free-agent offers from teams including the Bulls. Bosh said yesterday on ESPN that he will move as a free agent to the Heat from Toronto. James and Wade have played in every All-Star Game since 2005. Bosh has been selected each year since 2006, though he didn’t play in the midseason exhibition last year because of an injury.
To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Gloster in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org