This week represents the 10th anniversary of the beginning of 2010 free agency when the dynamics of the NBA shifted and the era of superstars teaming up began in earnest, as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh joined forces in Miami.
The announcements of Bosh and Wade came on July 7, with LeBron making “The Decision” on July 8, but the wheels were in motion long before that. Even though there had been discussion amongst themselves about playing together, with a bond that was formed most notably during their summers with USA Basketball, there was still work to do in selling the group on joining forces — and that Miami was the right destination.
The Bulls were heavily in the mix, trying to pitch Dwyane Wade on coming back home, and were willing to look at moving Luol Deng to create the requisite space for all three players. However, it was Pat Riley and the Heat that got the three players on board, with Riley using his championship pedigree as his biggest bargaining chip. As Chris Bosh recalled to Brian Windhorst of ESPN for a 10-year retrospective on that free agency summer, Riley broke out his collection of championship rings, kept in a velvet bag similar to a Crown Royal bag, and even went so far as to give Bosh a 2006 Heat championship ring with a promise that he’d return it once he won one of his own.
However, as Bosh says, he still has that ring as Riley may have forgotten about their deal.
“Oh, yeah, Pat brought his rings out. It looked just like a Crown Royal bag,” Bosh said. “He puts it down, like boom. Big boy talk. When he ended the meeting, Pat gave me a 2006 Heat championship ring.”
“Take it. Keep it. Give it back to me when you win one,” Riley said to Bosh.
“I still haven’t given it back,” Bosh said. “I wonder if he even remembers that? I think I mentioned it once, like, ‘Yo, do you want that ring back?’ And he said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And I kept it moving.”
That means, technically, Bosh has as many Heat title rings as Wade and one more than LeBron, thanks to a somewhat forgetful Pat Riley. It’s a hell of a pitch from Riley to hand over a ring and say “keep this til we win one,” which shouldn’t be a surprise given their bombastic “not four, not five, not six” introductory speech. The Big 3 Heat would win two titles of their own, making four Finals in their four years together, and their lasting impact may be how the three players worked together to make the financials work and sacrifice what was needed to make a potential dynasty happen.
While pairing stars wasn’t new, how the Heat did it was and it has had a huge impact on team-building going forward, with star players seemingly having more influence on personnel and working behind the scenes to get themselves paired up with friends and preferred teammates. Windhorst’s look back includes some fascinating insight into the chase for LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, from missteps by the Bulls — who still believe they were closest to the trio behind Miami — to the Knicks and Nets meetings with LeBron.