Whenever asked about planning for the future, players will always say something like, "I'm just focused on this season, my team, and winning." We all know that's not the case and that superteams and major moves are considered long in advance. Charles Oakley shared that's exactly the case when it comes to the move that changed the NBA forever - The Decision.
Dinner with Oak
The Decision is still, and will always be, one of LeBron's biggest miscalculations. A poorly executed breakup on national television that caused a visceral reaction in Cleveland and gave us the Comic Sans letter.
A lot of reports and books cover this moment and share that LeBron was uncertain of his decision to the very end. James understood the seismic shift this would make in the NBA. But he definitely started to plan for it at least a year in advance.
While promoting his new book "The Last Enforcer" on JJ Redick's podcast, Oakley shared LeBron reached out to him early in the '09/'10 season, and they had dinner while the Cavs had a mini-Florida road trip. If you check the schedule, this would be the Cavs' 8th and 9th game of the season in early November.
I had dinner with him, gone out, we had a good time. He said, "I'm thinking about going to Miami." I called Pat [Riley], told him I need a couple of tickets for the game. At halftime, he has that special suite he goes to. I was talking to him and I said "I talked to someone who said they might be coming here next year." He said "Really?" I said, "Yeah, you might be playing against him tonight." He laughed at that, and the next thing you know, next year, he's [LeBron] in Miami.
Charles Oakley, The Old Man and The Three
Oak pointed out he got approval from James to use the story in his book, so it seems legit. Goes to show how things are floated in preparation for major moves.
As we know, there's almost no tampering in the NBA. It's against the rules, and the league is very strict about any impermissible contact.
To remind you, Charles Oakley played for Pat Riley in New York. It just so happened LeBron invited Oak to dinner before a Miami game and mentioned that he was considering joining the Heat, an organization run by Oakley's former coach. Were any rules broken? Absolutely not.
This is how business gets done. Long before Woj tweets about it, over dinner or a night out. That's how it's always been, and how it'll always be. The only thing absurd about it is the fact the NBA pretends it isn't so and only sanctions teams too anxious to declare victory via Woj or Shams. (Looking at you, Bucks.)
Well, that's not the only thing. A new element of absurdity has appeared recently. Players like LeBron trying to convince us they don't make GM decisions but are only "consulted" in the decision-making process. We all know Pelinka was overpowered by LeBron and AD to make the Westbrook deal instead of the Buddy Hield deal.
Trying to convince us otherwise just creates damage in the department it was supposed to help out in - PR and legacy building.