- Henry Abbott, TrueHoop, NBA
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If you missed ESPN's televised special on LeBron James' decision, here is the transcript of Jim Gray's conversation with James (Follow-up interviews are in separate post):
Thank you very much. Everybody is on pins and needles across the country, particularly those teams who are in the running for LeBron James.
Are you ready to go LeBron? Where is the powder?
Left it at home.
What's new? What's been going on with you this summer?
Man, this whole free agent experience, looking forward to it.
What have you thought about this process?
This process has been everything I've thought and more. And that's what I did a few years ago; I put myself in a position to have this process where I can hear teams' pitches and figure out what was the best possible chance for me to ultimately win and to ultimately be happy.
You weren't able to be recruited because you went straight to the NBA from high school. Have you enjoyed this recruiting process now?
I have enjoyed it. And I want to thank all six teams that I had an opportunity to sit down with and hear what they had to say. And my team, they hear what we had to say also.
It's been an unbelievable experience, a real humbling experience to be even to be in this position.
What did you expect? Because we've seen 30 foot billboards. We've seen teams clear out all kinds of cap space. We've seen cartoons made about you and for you in part of their pitch. President Obama, for crying out loud, seven times has commented that he'd like to see you go to Chicago. What did you expect from this process?
Well, certain things like that is one thing you can't control. But I expected to be able to go through this process and be able to sit down with my team and sit across from other teams and hear how they feel with me being a part of their team, could help them win and could ultimately help others win.
And the process was everything I expected and more. And like I said before, I just thank all those teams that have come to Cleveland and us have those interviews and have that process. It was everything that I've ever expected and more.
How many people know your decision right now?
Not many. It's a very, very small number. And I probably could count them on my fingers.
One hand or two hands?
Let's say one.
When did you decide?
I think I decided this morning. I mean, I decided this morning I went day to day. I wake up one morning, it's this team. I wake up another morning, it's this team. And it's a process that I felt it was I may feel like this is the best opportunity for me or not the best opportunity for me.
But this morning I woke up, had a great conversation with my mom. Once I had that conversation with her, I think I was set.
So the last time you changed your mind was yesterday?
The last time I changed my mind was probably in my dreams. And when I woke up this morning I knew it was the right decision.
So does the team that you're going to, that you'll announce in a few minutes, do they know your decision?
They just found out.
They just found out?
So the other five, on pins and needles, they don't know; they'll be listening to this?
Who in this process, LeBron, have you taken advice from and who has had the biggest influence?
I've taken a lot of advice from my friends and family. My agent, Leon Rose, has been great. A lot of people that I look towards in a time of need or for advice, and ultimately they looked at me and said you ultimately have to live with your decision that you're going to make, and you have to do what's best for you, for your family and for you to ultimately be happy.
What was the major factor, the major reason in your decision?
I think the major factor and the major reason in my decision was the best opportunity for me to win and to win now and to win into the future also.
And winning is a huge thing for me. Jim, you know ever since I was a rookie or even in high school, we always talked, that was the number one thing for me: Help my teammates get better and just wanting to win. And I've done some great things in my seven years, and I want to continue to do that.
How deep of an evaluation do you have to do to go through that to figure out tomorrow, next year and beyond, that equation, that winning?
One thing that you can't control is you never know. You never know. You want to put yourself in the position where you feel that it's the best opportunity. But saying I can win a championship next year or saying I can win it a year after, those are things that you don't know until you go out there and actually play the game.
But you have to put yourself in the right position to be able to compete and also accomplish the goals that you set out for.
Do you have any doubts about your decision?
No. I don't have any doubts at all.
Would you like to sleep on it a little longer, or are you ready to make this decision?
I've slept enough. Or the lack of sleep.
Are you still a nail biter?
I have a little bit. Not of late.
You've had everybody else biting their nails. So I guess it's time for them to stop chewing. The answer to the question everybody wants to know: LeBron, what's your decision?
In this fall, this is very tough, in this fall I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.
The Miami Heat? That was the conclusion you woke up with this morning?
That was the conclusion I woke up with this morning.
Like I said before, I feel like it's going to give me the best opportunity to win and to win for multiple years, and not only just to win in the regular season or just to win five games in a row or three games in a row, I want to be able to win championships. And I feel like I can compete down there.
Was it always in your plan to go and play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh?
Well, I mean, I'm looking forward to it. To say it was always in my plans, I can't say it was always in my plans because I never thought it was possible.
But the things that the Miami Heat franchise have done to be able to free up cap space and to be able to put themselves in a position this summer to have all three of us, it was hard to turn down. Those are two great players, two of the greatest players we have in this game today.
And, you know, you add me, we're going to be a really good team.
The three of you will share now the spotlight and the limelight. And in many ways you're going to Dwyane Wade's team. He's been in Miami. He's won a championship. How do you think you'll be able to fit in and possibly not be the headliner all the time?
For me it's not about sharing. You know, it's about everybody having their own spotlight and then just doing what's best for the team.
You know, at this point D Wade, he's the unselfish guy here. To be able to have Chris Bosh and then LeBron James, to welcome us to his team, it's not about an individual here. Because if that was the case, D Wade wouldn't have asked us to join him, or we wouldn't have asked him if it was okay to come down there. It's not about individuals. It's about a team, and that's what this game is about.
How do you explain this to the people in Cleveland?
I mean, it's heartfelt for me. You know, it's hard to explain, but at the same time my heart, in the seven years I gave to that franchise, to that city, it was everything.
I mean, those 20,000 plus fans that came out every night we played, and they seen me grow from an 18 year old kid to a 25 year old man. And I never wanted to leave Cleveland. And my heart will always be around that area. But I also felt like this is the greatest challenge for me is to move on.
What was the major reason for leaving the Cavaliers?
I don't even see it it's not like leaving Cleveland is the whole logistic of it; it's about joining forces with the other two guys that I feel like I respect their game the most. And I feel like we have a great chance of winning and winning for multiple years.
Like I said before, this is a very emotional time for me. I know it's emotional for the fans and also for the area. And if it was a perfect world, I would have loved to stay, because I've done so many great things for that team, they've done so many great things for me. But I feel like it's time to change.
What do you think will be the fans' reaction back there, and will you still live in Akron?
I'm not sure. You know, they can have mixed emotions, of course, but it's going to be a lot of emotions not understanding why. And then you're going to have the real friends who love me for who I am. For me being from Akron, Ohio, and loving Akron, Ohio, it's always home for me. I'm still going to live there, always be home. And Akron, Ohio is always home for me and that area.
Erik Spoelstra is the coach. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh said he will be the coach. Have you been told he will be your coach, or has Pat Riley, in your meetings, indicated he might come back to the bench?
No. Erik Spoelstra will be the coach. And Pat said that. And Erik is a great young coach. He has a great mentor in Pat.
If you need something to bounce off of, he has a great person to go through, because Pat has been through everything, been through the highest level to the lowest level. He knows everything about it. But I respect Erik and I respect the coaching staff. I respect Coach Spoelstra and everything he's going to do to try to put us in the right position to win it all.
Ever want to go through this again?
This is tough. This is very tough, because you feel like you've let a lot of people down. You've raised a lot of people's expectations also. But it was a tough decision, because I know how loyal I am.
And one thing my mother told me when I was going through this process and what ultimately helped me make my decision is you have to do what's best for you and what's going to make you happy at the end of the day, because no one can live with the consequences or anything that comes with your decision besides you.
And once I heard that from my mother, the person that I always look to for guidance, it was easy.
You told me she had a major influence when you called her this morning. You didn't believe the reaction she had would be the one that you got. Could you share with us what she said to you this morning?
Absolutely. Like I said, when I called my mother I thought I would hear a different reaction. When she her reaction was it was a great move, because she felt it was going to ultimately make me happy. It wasn't about being in Miami. It wasn't about playing alongside Chris, playing alongside Dwyane, who she believes are two great basketball players, because she loves the game. But she felt it was going to make me happy.
When I heard that from my mother, it was like it was the relief that I was looking for throughout this whole process.
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