Even those critics who hated "The Decision" might understand why LeBron James made it.
Or maybe they don't, because so few of them bothered to watch the 2007 NBA finals.
James was a one-man team swatted away by three great players, his Cleveland Cavaliers held to the worst offensive performance in finals history and swept aside by the San Antonio Spurs. The series drew the worst TV ratings ever and ended with James admitting his team was simply overmatched, that nothing could have been done to change the outcome.
That led him to Miami for a partnership with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and the promise of multiple championships. Less than a year after coming together, they have a shot at their first when they face Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks in a series that started Tuesday.
"I know what this league is all about, about having multiple guys on the court that can dominate a game," James said Monday. "With teaming up with these guys, I feel like we can compete for a lot of years to come. We've proven a lot of people wrong so far. We have a lot of work to do still."
And this time, people will be watching James — even if only in hope of seeing the Heat humbled after their theatrics of last summer.
"It's probably going to get the highest-rated finals, maybe ever. Just because of what they were assembled to do, and then the team that we have, I think it makes for great TV," Dallas guard Jason Terry said.
James' free agency announcement didn't. His televised special was blasted throughout the league, and his popularity tumbled further when the Heat celebrated winning the championship of July with a scene that was part pep rally, part rock concert.
It cast him in the villain role, but James only cares about the result.
"You know, we've got a lot of flak this year, mostly because of myself. And we've tried to use that as motivation every day we get on the basketball court," James said. "But just play the game of basketball. That's all we can do is play the game of basketball at a high level. Play Miami Heat basketball."
Five years after Wade largely overwhelmed the Mavericks by himself to win the Heat's first championship, the teams arrived at Game 1 of the rematch through decidedly different constructions.
The Heat essentially sacrificed seasons for salary-cap space, making the playoffs through Wade's greatness but with no realistic chance of winning. The gamble paid off when James and Bosh agreed to come and Wade committed to stay, giving Miami the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 players on perhaps the greatest free-agency list in NBA history.
Nowitzki's name was on it, too, and he even said he would have listened if James and Wade had tried to recruit him. His preference was to remain in Dallas, as long as owner Mark Cuban would do what it takes to give the big German another shot at a ring.
"Ultimately, that's where my heart was at. I almost felt like we had unfinished business after '06," Nowitzki said. "Had a great meeting with Mark there, free agency. All I needed was reassurance that he was going to keep going and keep building around this team, and keep putting all his resources for us to hopefully be up there one day. We're here again at the big stage. Hopefully we can turn it around this year and finish strong."
nba finals Dallas at Miami
Dallas at Miami
Thursday: Game 2, 9 p.m.
TV: ABC, Ch. 28