Posted Jul 10 2010 1:12AM
MIAMI -- There was smoke and strobe lights, fireworks and throbbing music and a sense of overwhelming triumph.
It was a championship celebration by the Miami Heat three months before the start of training camp.
Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh rose from the back of the stage on a hydraulic lift and it was as if they had already picked up all of Miami and carried it to the top of the mountain.
Imagine if they held tickertape parades for a promise.
The emcee kept calling them the Three Kings and it was a scene more fitting for a coronation than the official pedestrian name: Summer 2010 Welcome Event.
The world wanted bold. The world got it.
"This arguably is the best trio ever to play the game of basketball," proclaimed Wade.
That, of course, might be news to Russell, Cousy and Jones or West, Baylor and Chamberlain or Magic, Kareem and Worthy or Bird, McHale and Parish or Michael Jordan and any two guys off the street.
But no one among the party-hearty inside AmericanAirlinesArena was there to quibble. This was a throng of 13,000 inside the building -- more than at many Heat games last season -- and several thousand more outside that had come to celebrate the fact that Wade and Bosh had coaxed The Chosen One -- James -- to choose them at the end of his celebrated free-agent quest.
Just 24 hours earlier, James had looked like somebody had backed over his puppy as he endured that interview on national TV with Jim Gray while a split-screen showed Cleveland fans burning his jersey.
But now he was sparkling like the large diamond studs in his earlobes as a smile ran a fastbreak across his face.
"This feels right to be in this position, wearing this uniform," James said. "What was important to me in making this decision is that the Heat organization is a family. And family is what I'm all about."
The whole evening, the entire scene was one big family affair, assuming that your regular family gatherings are part-revival meeting and part Lady Gaga concert.
It was hardly a time to be shy. While Heat president Pat Riley, the architect of the grand renovation, the nurturer of the dream, talked about building a dynasty with his trio of stars.
The crowd got into the spirit by erupting into a rousing chorus of: "Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!"
Wade daringly raised the bar when he said the first season of the three stars together would be a failure if it did not end with a championship.
"Yes," he said. "We are here to win the championship. We're not here to sell jerseys. We're not here to pump up ratings. You don't make a decision like this, LeBron doesn't make a decision to leave him hometown, Chris didn't make a decision to leave Toronto to come here just to get out of the first round. The goal is to win championships. If we don't do that, we're gonna be harder on ourselves than you can be on us."
James admitted that this new beginning was far easier on him emotionally than the previous night and then aftermath when Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert ripped him in an open letter, calling him coward and questioning his competitiveness.
"It's been emotionally draining at times," he said. "It's been exciting. It's been nerve-wrecking. It's been scary at times. I've been afraid. I've accepted the challenge to move on and I feel great now.
"I really don't have a reaction to what Dan said. When things hit the fan, you see guys' true colors. I wish that organization the best of luck and I wish those fans the best of luck, because I do love them, no matter where I put myself for the rest of my life ... At the end of the day, Dan's comments cannot stop me and my family from sleeping at night."
The threesome dismissed concerns about there being a chemistry problem trying to get three All-Stars who are used to being the main man on their respective teams give up some of their individual stats.
"Why do numbers have to go down?" James asked. "In the past, being the go-to guy and always having to take shots to get our team out of trouble ... Now there are contested shots that we don't have to take. You can look say our numbers have to go down, but I don't buy that at all.
"You look at Game 7 of the Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics, when Kobe Bryant shot 6-for-24 from the field and they still won, because he knew he had help and guys came through for him. I think it's been a long time for all three of us, if we shot 6-for-24 from the field that we still thought we could win a basketball game."
Bosh was more succinct.
"We're not afraid to be great," he said.
They are also not afraid to confront any of the skeptics about their partnership or the critics about the union. Especially piquing their interest were the comments out of Orlando from Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith, who questioned James' nerve for feeling the need to run to Wade and Bosh for help.
"Orlando, it's on," James said.
It was the Hall of Fame coach and now the so-called godfather of the organization Riley who first conjured up this possibility and may have closed the deal by putting a bag full of his championship rings on a table in front of James.
"The rings was pretty cool," LeBron said. "I need a few of those."
That's the way they are openly talking, about winning not one ring, but more and more. At one point up on the stage, amid the smoke and the spotlights James counted out for the crowd how he wanted to get "one, two, three, four, five, six, seven ..."
One might note there are still three months before training camp. But why spoil a good party?
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