In 2014, LeBron James would shock the NBA again by returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2016, the Cavs would become the first team in NBA history to win the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 against the record-breaking 73-9 Golden State Warriors. Emboldened by the defeat, the Warriors would recruit 2016’s prize free agent, Kevin Durant to sign, creating another super team.
In the 10 years following The Decision, time has turned to perspective. During the course of this series, I’ve intentionally mentioned teams with their own “Big 3.” Big 3’s have existed throughout the league, across sports. The ’90s Bulls had Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman. The 80s Celtics had Bird, McHale, and Parrish. The ’85 Bears had Payton, Hampton, and Dent. The Blackhawks had Toews, Kane, and Hossa. The ’27 Yankees had Ruth, Gehrig, and Hoyt. As recently as 2008, the Boston Celtics were the toast of the league, boasting their Big 3 of Allen, Garnett, and Pierce. What made the Heat’s Big 3 and The Decision so monumental was that a front office was not at the center of the move. Sure, the front office drafted the contracts but the real story was that 3 Black men in the prime of their careers decided for themselves who they wanted to play with and where. And willing to take pay cuts to do it! Many of the critiques I read at the time and over the years is that Michael Jordan would never…How do we know?
Another “hot take” was Derrick Rose should have done more to recruit James and others to sign with Chicago. What if James had signed with the Bulls. Would Rose have won MVP that year? Would we have experienced the joy and excitement we did in the spring of 2011? Wherever your opinion lies, without question The Decision changed the nature of modern free agency in the NBA. It showed the players they could take their talents anywhere they wanted in pursuit of a championship.
All I know is, for a brief moment in time, Derrick Rose and the Bulls made Chicago feel energized, magical. If The Decision did anything, it made us feel good about our city, our squad. We had that. It was real and ended sooner than we wanted or hoped, but the experience? *deep sigh*. I’ll end this post with a quote from Flip in the film, Above the Rim, “they can’t erase what we were, man.”
Postscript: LeBron James would go on to win 2 NBA championships with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013, 1 NBA championship with Cleveland in 2016, and 1* NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020, a season marked by the Coronavirus pandemic and the deaths of David Stern and Kobe Bryant. He is the first (and so far, only) player in NBA history to win Finals MVP honors with 3 different teams.