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Sunday, July 11, 2010

LeBron, Bosh meet Heat fans

MIAMI (AP) Farewell, Cleveland. Hello, Miami.

News photo
Tough trio: Miami Heat stars (from left) Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James appear at a fan event in American Airlines Arena on Friday night. AP PHOTO

LeBron James never had 24 hours quite like this.

The decision. The letter. The arrival. The celebration. All filled with drama, all representing a new chapter for the two-time MVP.

"I understand now that I've made the right decision," James said.

A packed arena of Miami Heat fans, plus another 10,000 or so outside the building, couldn't have been more thrilled to hear James say those words. His acquisition by the Heat became official Friday night, not long after he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — the NBA's newest superstar trio — arrived together in a spectacle typically reserved for rock concerts and award shows.

Dressed in a white Heat uniform for the first time, James took a look at his new home crowd, folded his arms across his chest after he and his teammates were dropped from the sky on a forklift, and nodded.

The MVP has taken center stage in Miami.

"We know what the fans want," James said.

In case there was some question, they told him: Yes, a "Beat L.A." chant broke out in July, call it an opening salvo aimed at the two-time defending champion Lakers.

Great fanfare. Great expectations.

"It's still surreal, man," Wade said. "Me, Chris and 'Bron. We ready. We want to go to the gym now."

Wade was in the middle as the trio was lifted skyward for the entrance — Bosh on his right, James on his left. Bosh pointed to the fans and screamed, while Wade aimed his index fingers at the crowd and James strutted about to the fans' delight.

"We wanted to come here, then LeBron wanted to come," Bosh said. "Let's get it done, man. Let's get this thing going."

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Heat continued working on sign-and-trade deals for both players, which were completed long after the event ended, around 11 p.m. The Heat sent two future first-round and two second-round picks to the Cavaliers for James, while packaging two first-round picks to the Raptors for Bosh.

Next up for Miami: Deals for Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, both expected to be done in the coming days, and a planned meeting with Lakers point guard Derek Fisher.

"We here now," James said. "And we're here for a long time."

Wade, Bosh and James all signed their six-year contracts earlier Friday night, each set to make about $2 million less than the $16.6 million they could have demanded for the coming season.

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