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COMMENTARY | LeBron lands in Miami; South Florida rejoices

We are the kingdom now.

Miami is the capital of basketball.

South Florida is the epicenter of American sports.

It became so by royal decree at 9:27 p.m. Eastern time, July 8, 2010.

That is the moment when LeBron James — audacious enough to call himself King and so great the dissenters are few — chose the Miami Heat as his new basketball team over all other suitors in this landscape-quaking summer of NBA free agency.

We had been told for more than a week to expect it.

It was still stunning.

He did it with bombastic excess, live on ESPN, in a narcissistic, ego-feeding, ridiculous hour-long television special augustly entitled “The Decision.” It was the perfect gruesome marriage of the most self-serving, self-promoting network in history and a mega-superstar in the mood to rapaciously celebrate the man in the mirror.

Many people elsewhere in the country surely thought Thursday night’s show was crass, unduly mean to the poor, jilted people of Cleveland, somehow just not right.

I must tell you, though: Down here, Heat fans sort of liked it!

Here in South Florida we weren’t hearing the rest of the country’s muttering complaint because we’re too busy blowing car horns, high-fiving strangers, doing shots to our unfathomably great luck, saying, “Can you bleeping believe it!?” and making sounds like this: WOOOOOOOOOOO!

As for Cavaliers fans feeling angry and betrayed? Get over it, mi amigos. Players leave. Ever heard the phrase “greener pastures”? Besides, when Column A is Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and living on South Beach and Column B is far less a supporting cast and living in Cleveland, well, let’s just say Mensa membership is not required to reach the conclusion James did.

The forum for his much-awaited proclamation was a fountain of me-me and marketing that made you think the young man’s name should be LeBrand James. No doubt, but no matter. The vessel he chose was garish for sure, but the point is what the vessel was carrying, where it was headed.

It was bound for Miami.

And it was carrying the mother lode.

By itself this orchestrated revelation would have been seismic news. Whatever team was getting LeBron was getting the grand prize of free agency, a six-time all-star and scoring machine, twice league MVP and still only 25.

LeBron alone is enough to lift an entire city, to make agnostics believe.

But, oh my, he won’t be alone!

The kingdom is full of royalty.

Adding James to DWade — our Ace to LeBron’s King — is like giving Usain Bolt a head start.

It’s like Coke and Pepsi have joined forces and the rest of the league is RC Cola.

Throw in Bosh to make it Tres Magnifico and it seems almost unfair. (New definition of Dream Team: Bosh, a 24-point guy with the wingspan to dunk and start his car outside the arena at the same time, is your third-best player).

Heat fans should have been abundantly satisfied if the club’s free-agency bounty were “only” re-signing Wade and getting Bosh.

Now?

Wow.

So much changed Thursday night when LeBron picked Miami.

The Heat became bigger than the Dolphins. Maybe not forever, but immediately and for the foreseeable future.

Heat home games became events, every one an assured sellout festooned with celebrities (Jay-Z already has his courtside seats).

Parking fees outside the arena went from merely costly to ridiculous.

Ticket brokers and scalpers were celebrating with champagne.

Network TV instantly adopted a new “It” team.

Erik Spoelstra became a brilliant coach.

Pat Riley cemented his legacy (while gamely resisting his urge to coach again).

South Beach became even more happening (that’s like the sun becoming hotter), including the W hotel as LeBron reserved 25 rooms for his welcome-to-Miami party.

And free agents all over the league were telling their agents to get them to Miami — somehow — so they might hop on the magic carpet and inherit some championship rings.

All because the Miami Heat, at 9:27 p.m. Thursday, became the most celebrated, talked-about, envied, hated and despised team in the NBA, and maybe in all of American sports, with due respect (and animus) to the New York Yankees.

Greg Cote, a sports columnist, writes for the Miami Herald.

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