MIAMI (AP) _ When the moment finally arrived, Dwyane Wade was as anxious as anyone.
His eyes locked toward the television set in a Miami Beach steakhouse, Wade stared at the image of LeBron James, knowing what was coming next would change the shape of the entire NBA.
“Miami Heat,” James said.
With that, all of South Florida _ Wade included _ roared with delight.
“This is the beginning of new chapter in Heat history,” Wade said. “And very exciting for both fans of the Miami Heat and the NBA.”
Well, maybe not everyone found it to be so exciting.
James’ decision to join the Miami Heat was received with just about every emotion imaginable, from raucous joy in Miami to deep anguish in Cleveland, where a native son of Ohio won two MVP trophies and was revered like almost no other athlete in the city’s long history.
When James announced his choice on Thursday night, that all changed forever.
In Cleveland, fans burned James’ jerseys, and the team owner sent out a scathing e-mail decrying James’ actions and calling him “our former hero.” In New Jersey, New York and Chicago _ three other cities that thought they had done enough to land the two-time MVP _ teams started moving to Plan B in this free-agent period like almost none other.
But in Miami, it was time to celebrate.
“This don’t come around often,” Wade said. “History in the making _ but it’ll only become history if we do what we came together to do, and that’s win championships.”
Miami entered free agency with hopes of keeping Wade, the MVP of its run to the 2006 NBA title, and then pairing him with either Chris Bosh or James.
Heat president Pat Riley found a way to get them all.
“We are thrilled that LeBron James and Chris Bosh have decided to come to Miami to join forces with our truly great player, Dwyane Wade,” Riley said. “We are looking forward to the opportunity of building something that our fans in Miami will be proud of for a long, long time.”
The contracts were being worked on as soon as James made the announcement, but each player likely left some money on the bargaining table. Wade could have earned $125.5 million over the next six years; he told The Associated Press he would take less to make sure there was enough to pay James and Bosh.
Wade’s agent, Henry Thomas, told the AP that he expected the deals to be signed Friday.
Around the NBA, James’ decision prompted no shortage of opinions.
Wade is “the Derek Jeter down there. Now you have the Alex Rodriguez coming in, which is LeBron James,” Reggie Miller said on NBA TV. “Between Wade and James, one of those guys is going to have to sacrifice, and that guy has to be LeBron James.”
Wade got tipped off by James just before the start of his televised announcement. His reaction: A long, loud scream.
He sounded like who-knows-how-many other Heat fans.
“Back in the day, the Fontainebleau was host to the legendary ‘Rat Pack,”’ said Jeff Soffer, owner of the Fontainebleau Hotel on South Beach. “Today we are thrilled to welcome Miami’s new ‘Rat Pack’ _ Wade, Bosh, LeBron.”
James reportedly is considering taking up temporary residence at the Fontainebleau while he gets settled in South Florida. He was expected to arrive early Friday, with Wade and Bosh awaiting him.
“The journey,” Riley said, “is just beginning.”
Pictured above is LeBron James.