The dominoes are starting to fall into place around the NBA. ESPN reports Wednesday morning that Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have agreed to team up for the Heat, ending two-thirds of the drama in the NBA free agentpalooza and heightening the tension before Thursday night's live TV announcement of LeBron James's destination.
The details regarding just how Bosh will get to Miami -- sign-and-trade or straight signing -- remain in limbo, but the ESPN report has Bosh heading to South Florida regardless of whether or not he gets the extra year and millions available by allowing Toronto to receive compensation for his departure. The two players announced their marriage Wednesday afternoon on ESPN.
"Now we can get on the pace of building a championship," Wade told ESPN.
And the rest of the world can put its focus squarely on James.
That would seem to be exactly as he wants it. Even as James's eventual choice has become more muddled, one thing has become clear in recent days: James wants to be the center of everyone's attention. He made that clear when he joined Twitter after shunning it as something beneath him for the last year and when he revamped his old, lightly used website just in time to become the biggest news story of the summer. It became undeniable when news broke that James would be announcing his choice in an ESPN special on Thursday night at 9 p.m. featuring sponsors signed and chosen by James and not the network. James reportedly plans to announce the decision from Greenwich, Conn., though his exact location for the ESPN broadcast is unclear.
Something to ponder while staying out of the heat: If an ESPN employee learns James's decision, does he report it? News and entertainment have never seen the lines blurred more than this, at least not in terms of a sports story. We were half-kidding when we suggested James turn this process into a reality show last week when we should have been applying to be the producer of the damned thing.
He's giving the proceeds to charity but he isn't sharing the spotlight with anyone, including the team that will be granted the pleasure of his company. Every move James has made has been about maximizing his chance to grow his profile or, in the parlance of our times, his brand to levels beyond anyone else in the world of sports right now. That screams a move away from Cleveland is in the offing as Chicago, Miami and New York are places fit for a man who refers to himself as the King and who would obviously like to expand his realm to every possible corner of the globe.
Yet he's also kept the home fires burning and many people still believe he'll be with the Cavaliers when all is said and done. Perhaps this is just the New York background talking, but that feels, on the surface, like the most dishonest pairing available. The man who would be King talks about winning titles and growing his profile and person while settling for more money and the comforts of home. There's nothing wrong with either of those things but, as Bosh's refusal to play for Cleveland attests, it's not a place that is going to keep LeBron in the mix for the things he says matter to him.
Unless we've got it backwards and Cleveland is really the most honest place for him to end up because they are the only town capable of lavishing the same amount of adulation on James that he lavishes on himself. This whole process has been extended to keep eyes on James and life will go on in any of the other three cities if he chooses to stay at home. Cleveland, however, has pinned an unhealthy amount of civic pride on keeping James in a uniform with its name across the front and would react to his decision to stay with the kind of unabashed love that other cities don't really trade in. For those cities it will be about what James does when he gets there, not simply that he chose to come. For Cleveland, it's all about the moment he says he's staying.
It won't be the most fascinating television show ever produced, at least not for the first 59 minutes. That last minute will be a humdinger, though, and then we can all move on. At least, we can move on until James decides to do this all over again in a few years.