In July 2010, LeBron James ruffled many feathers when he arranged a live ESPN special to announce that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and taking his talents to South Beach to play for the Miami Heat.
Before that, however, it appears that James attempted to recruit center Brendan Haywood to join him in Northeast Ohio, and Haywood wasn’t interested for at least one reason.
“When I was in Dallas, LeBron was thinking about going to Miami,” Haywood told Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype. “Before he went to the Heat, he was recruiting guys to come to Cleveland. I get a text from a number that I don’t know. It’s LeBron. He says: ‘What’s up, this is King James.’ It was a little weird he called himself King James but I kept going. He told me he was trying to get guys to come to the Cavs. He said he knew that they could not give me what I was going to get in the market. But he wanted to know if I would be willing to take a pay cut to be a part of something special. I wouldn’t have taken a pay cut to play with the ’92 [Chicago] Bulls. Buddy, you’re making $100 million off the court! This is my last hurrah! I hadn’t made enough money in my career to take a pay cut and chase a championship. I’d played so many playoff series against him that I saw him as another player. If you play in the league, you look at guys a little differently. He was younger than I was. I looked at him like he was anybody else.”
In the late 2000s, the Cavs were considered title contenders, but they were in a tough spot. With James’ impending free agency in 2010, the team had to convince him that he could win multiple titles in Cleveland in the coming years.
As it turned out, James joined perennial All-Stars Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami. Together, they reached the NBA Finals four times in as many seasons, winning back-to-back championships.
Those titles gave James the league-wide stature he enjoys today, and it has made his more recent recruiting efforts much more fruitful.