LeBron James is coming to South Florida, to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on a team that is poised to jump from NBA also-ran to immediate championship contender.
In front of the national glare of ESPN's cameras, James completed Thursday what Wade and Bosh started Wednesday, a three-pronged partnership of All-Stars and Olympic teammates that could rival anything since the league offered Magic, Kareem and Worthy with the Lakers, and Bird, McHale and Parish with the Celtics.
"This league, you become a superstar individually, but you become a champion as a team, and I understand that," James said.
The commitment of Wade, James and Bosh was so strong that all agreed to commit to the shared experience without being assured that they would receive their maximum allowable starting salary of $16.6 million for 2010-11.
"The numbers are not finalized," James said. "All three of us are going to take less money, because we all wanted to play alongside each other and we feel we can be great together."
Riley and his management staff worked through the day Thursday trying make the numbers work, while also maximizing the composition of a roster that could have as many as 11 players earning the NBA minimum salary of roughly $1 million next season.
With each, Riley secured a commitment that they would be willing to shave money off their deals in order to make the permutations work.
"I feel like it's not a super team right now," James said, "because the team, we don't even have enough players to fill a roster."
As the Heat's own free agent, Wade is eligible for a six-year, $125 million contract. As free agents signing from outside teams, James and Bosh would be eligible for five-year, $96 million contracts. However talks were ongoing Thursday with the Toronto Raptors to try to place Bosh in a sign-and-trade deal, therefore allowing the power forward to also qualify for the $125 million over six years.
James said he took the shorter, five-year deal.
"I'm not getting a max deal," he said. "I'm taking one less year and I'm getting a lot less being in Miami."
Concerns about winning, not money, fueled James' decision, as the forward prepares to play the first time in his seven-year NBA career with a team other than one that neighbors his hometown of Akron, Ohio.
He said he embraces the opportunity to be alongside Wade.
"The way we play on both ends of the court will not change," James said. "We'll just be united now. And that's the same thing with Chris, also. We're just going to raise each's intensity up."
James scoffed at the notion that such stars can't co-exist.
"There's no personal agenda," he said. "We could have stayed where we were. This has nothing to do with being an individual.
"The friendship has been there from Day One."