Making Career-Changing Decisions

There were a lot of cool sports moments that happened over the weekend. Some basketball players hit game-winning shots, a hockey team scored five goals in the final period, and the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams advanced to the Super Bowl.

But all of that was overshadowed by Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr., who announced his retirement from the NFL after 22 seasons and seven championships.

Well, to be more accurate, “sources” announced it.

(Side note: I would like to be able to do this in life. Talk trash about your friend, or accidentally say something bad to a client? You didn’t actually say that, “sources” did.)

Shortly after this initial report came out, Brady’s dad and coach refuted the announcement, saying he hadn’t come to a decision yet.

It’s all been a confusing mess, which is surely what the neat, prepared, meticulous Brady wants to see.

This whole situation got me thinking about another botched announcement, this one from NBA history.

That’s right, it’s time for another fascinating installment of “Memorable Moments in NBA History!”

LeBron James Makes His “Decision” — July 8, 2010

Lots of people think Kevin Durant ruined the NBA when he joined the “villain” Golden State Warriors. After all, he had nearly knocked off those very same Warriors the previous playoffs with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team that drafted him and gave him everything he needed.

I don’t personally agree with this stance. However, I understand how riled-up fans—who think the only thing players consider is basketball and not business, relationships, family, or any other number of factors—might get upset at a move like this one.

Well, if Durant ruined the league, LeBron James certainly insulted it.

In an 75-minute televised special, LeBron James announced he was “taking his talents to South Beach,” leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and joining the Miami Heat. In the process, he formed a super team with fellow stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Was this entire thing unnecessary? Probably. But there’s always been a lot of hype around LeBron, and though the stilted weirdness of the interview has been rightfully mocked, the show did raise $2.5 million for the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, Connecticut and generated another $3.5 million in advertising revenue, which was donated to other charities. That’s a pretty cool move.

Here’s the actual announcement (don’t worry, I am not sharing the entire video):

The summer of 2010 was a pretty wild one. Several big-name stars were becoming free agents, which meant other teams could sign them. Some teams even made trades simply to clear up a roster spot and get more money to sign these stars.

I guess that’s kind of a fun revelation for a player. Like, if you get traded for $5 million cash and your contract was only worth $3.5 million, can you use that as a bargaining chip?

Or alternatively, if you’re traded for $5 million but your contract is for $9 million—will a team try to lowball you the next time contract negotiations come around?

Anyway, this “trade useful players for straight-up cash money” strategy typically failed, but the Heat scored big, securing both LeBron (from Cleveland) and Chris Bosh (from Toronto). These moves were in addition to already having Dwyane Wade on the roster, who was a charming person and top-20 player in the league at the time.

The Cavs were understandably distraught, having just lost a once-in-a-generation player while receiving nothing in return. Their owner, Dan Gilbert, wrote a very aggressive letter (in a Comic Sans font, for some reason) claiming the Cavs would win a championship before Miami did.

I’m not kidding about the Comic Sans. You can see the letter for yourself here.

Historical pundits will point out the fact that Cleveland did not make the playoffs even once during LeBron’s absence. And as making the playoffs is a precursor to winning a championship, that prediction did not come to fruition.

Because this was a pretty unprecedented thing, the Heat threw a huge parade introducing their new acquisitions. LeBron famously said they would win “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” championships.

Years later, LeBron haters would say, “actually, you should have been like, ‘not one, but two.’” The Heat won two championships, though they made the NBA Finals in all four of LeBron’s years in South Beach. So, I guess they were close to winning like half of the predicted number of titles.

In 2014, LeBron returned to Cleveland and all was forgiven. He won a championship in Cleveland—against those Warriors, which set the Durant to the Warriors train in motion. Choo, chooooooo!

Wade remained in Miami, and though he bounced around a bit in his final few years, he ultimately returned to the Heat and had a farewell tour that lasted the entirety of the 2018-19 season. He swapped jerseys with a lot of people, jumped on some tables, and generally had a fun time.

Bosh, meanwhile, played in Miami for a bit longer, but soon retired from the NBA after developing blood clots. That’s a terrifying situation all around, but at least he made a fortune and has a run of exceptional basketball to look fondly upon.

Want to learn even more about The Decision? The terrific Secret Base did a deep rewind, which includes fun facts like the Knicks trying to persuade LeBron, a fan of The Sopranos, to join them by casting James Gandolfini and Edie Falco to reprise their roles and film a special scene. Truly amazing stuff.