More than two years of hype, drama, conjecture and expectation have dwindled to a few more hours.
LeBron James’ big moment is here — not as an NBA champion but as a free agent. There will be no parade, no ring ceremony, no banner raising.
Instead, on a prime time made-for-TV special his handlers contracted with ESPN, James will announce tonight (6 p.m.) where he’ll play next season and beyond. Fans from coast to coast will tune in to watch, with the ones in his home state of Ohio praying they won’t have their hearts broken again.
“I’ll be watching,” said fellow free agent superstar Dwyane Wade, who agreed to re-sign with Miami on Wednesday and may be trying to recruit James after Toronto’s Chris Bosh also agreed to sign with the Heat. “We’ve scheduled it. I’ll make sure I’m in front of the TV tomorrow at 9 (EDT) to watch like everyone else.”
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James will announce his plans within the first 10 minutes of the special, Norby Williamson, ESPN’s vice president of production, told The Associated Press. He said sportscaster Jim Gray, who was hand-picked by James’ team, will handle the introduction, announcement and initial questions. A person familiar with the plans tells the AP the interview will take place at the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, Conn.
James offered no hints about his plans on his final, full day of free agency.
Still, it was an eventful day in the NBA:
• The NBA set the salary cap at $58.04 million for next season, up from $57.7 million.
• Wade agreed to stay with the Heat and could receive around $126 million for six years from Miami when contracts can be signed starting today. But he told AP he would take less if necessary to make other deals work.
• Bosh also agreed to join Miami, leaving Toronto, but he doesn’t have terms of his deal done either. It’s all contingent on what James says.
• Two-time All-Star forward Carlos Boozer agreed to leave Utah after six seasons and join Chicago Bulls. Terms were not complete pending developments.
• Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, who was the second overall pick in 2007 when the franchise was still in Seattle, agreed to a five-year extension to stay with the Thunder. He will receive $85 million over the five years with no opt-out clause after the fourth year.
“Kevin wanted a five-year commitment,” said his spokesperson, Mary Ford.
• Ray Allen, another former SuperSonics star, agreed to a two-year, $20 million contract to return to the Boston Celtics.
After Boston lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games in the NBA Finals last month, Allen said, “It’s obvious I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
• Vinny Del Negro agreed to a three-year contract to coach the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that finished 29-53 this season after Mike Dunleavy stepped aside in February to focus on his GM duties and Kim Hughes finished as interim coach.
• The Sacramento Kings signed rookie center DeMarcus Cousins, the No. 5 pick in the draft, to a two-year contract for about $7 million.