Good-bye, Golden Child.
Ending the greatest recruiting war in NBA history -- and his career-long honeymoon-- LeBron James went to the Miami Heat Thursday, creating the most controversial team since Shaquille O'Neal met Kobe Bryant and leaving a smoking crater in Cleveland.
In so doing, James did everything skeptics said he wouldn't:
He didn't go for the most money, spurning a $128 million deal in Cleveland for a $99 million deal in Miami.
He didn't insist on having his own team, joining a superstar ensemble in Wade County, nee Dade County, before it was renamed--temporarily--as part of the drive to keep local star Dwyane Wade.
After seven seasons of trying to carry Mo Williams, Anderson Varejao and Co. to a title, James joins Wade and Chris Bosh on a new East power as glamorous as the Lakers, the previously unchallenged kings of glitz.
Shaq and Kobe needed years together to make the Lakers soap opera idols, or villains.
James did it for the Heat in one day, selling his announcement to ESPN as a one-hour special, serving himself up to his critics like a roast pig with an apple in its mouth.
In spite of the storm about to break around his head, James had every right to leave, even if it meant breaking his home town's heart.
He spent seven years trying to get the Cavaliers over the top.
Then he spent the last week trying to get another big free agent like Bosh or Amare Stoudemire to join him on a sign-and-trade.
With the Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors reportedly agreed on a deal, Bosh turned down the chance to go to Cleveland--taking less money to sign with Miami.
Only then did James turn toward Miami.
How good will this team be?
As little as LeBron bashers want to hear it, it'll be very good, indeed.
As everyone has heard and will hear a lot more times, the Heat only has two other players, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers, plus three rookie second-round picks.
Nevertheless, James, Wade and Bosh aren't only great -- well, LeBron and Dwyane are--they're complete players who'll be able to complement each other.
More help may be forthcoming, with the Heat trying to move Beasley so it can bring in Mike Miller.
As a basketball decision, it was OK, even if Chicago had the better roster.
As TV, it was a disaster.
Reaction at James' plans for his announcement was savage, from Yahoo ("No Ring Circus") to Deadspin's all-out attack ("self-aggrandizing... a dog and pony show.... 'Bonds on Bonds redux,' ") to mention some of the ones we could put in a newspaper.
The over/under on how long ESPN would hold the news turned out to be an incredible 27 minutes, 17 more than a network exec had announced.
As opposed to going low-key under the circumstances, ESPN game it the full heavy-handed treatment:
Stuart Scott into, blah, blah.
Old James interview saying "at the end of the day, it's a business."
Panel discussion, blah blah.
James in five uniforms (video of LeBron in Cavaliers, Heat, Bull, Net and Knick uniforms.)
6:12 Scott: "Coming up--the king will chose his next court!"
Three-minute commercial break for a search engine, designer water, insurance company, Boys & Girls Clubs, a fast food chain, promos for All-Star home run derby and the World Cup.
6:16 Yet another old James interview in which he says "At the end of the day we all know this is a business."
6:17 Last canvas of ESPN's panel.
Jon Barry: "He [James] doesn't look happy."
6:19 Another three-minute commercial break for the search engine, insurance company, et al.
6:22 They finally throw it to Jim Gray with James.
Gray, a real newsman but one who has allowed himself to play host in this farce, actually asks (and I'm not kidding):
1. What has been going on with James this summer?
2. What has he thought about this process?
3. Did he enjoy it?
4. What did you expect?
5. How many people know your decision right now?
6. Can they be counted on one hand or two?
7. When did he decide?
8. When was the last time he changed his mind?
9. Did the team he's going to know his decision?
10. Who in this process had he taken advice from?
11. What was the major factor in his decision?
12. How deep had the evaluation process gone?
13. Did he have any doubts about his decision?
13. Did he want to sleep on it a little longer or would he announce it now?
And most incredible of all:
14. "You still a nail-biter?"
Then and only then, did Gray ask what the decision was.
"This is tough," said James. "It's very tough because you feel like you let a lot of people down."
He doesn't know the half of it.