CLEVELAND — The Miami Heat have LeBron James’ attention. What they really want is the superstar free agent’s signature.
Team president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra, owner Micky Arison and former center Alonzo Mourning have begun their presentation to try to lure James to South Florida. The Heat’s delegation arrived at 10:20 a.m. James showed up two minutes before the scheduled 11 a.m. meeting wearing a T-shirt, shorts and a backpack.
The Heat will be followed by the Los Angeles Clippers.
On Thursday, James met with the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks. He will visit on Saturday with the Chicago Bulls and Cavaliers. The Cavs are counting on hometown loyalty to resign the two-time MVP, who has spent his first seven seasons in Cleveland.
James pulled into the garage of the IMG building in a Range Rover and was escorted to the elevator banks by two Cleveland police officers.
“Hey, what’s up?” James said before heading to LRMR Marketing, the company he started with Maverick Carter, his close friend and business partner.
Riley’s pitch to James isn’t expected to contain too many surprises, and it likely will focus on the possibility of him playing with Dwyane Wade, a U.S. Olympic teammate and friend. The Heat also have talked about uniting the two with free agent Chris Bosh, who was in the same draft class as James and Wade.
Riley’s recruiting plan goes something like this: He talks about the benefit of playing in an no-income-tax state like Florida, something that would be worth millions to James, whose off-court earnings dwarf his on-court salary. He sings the praises of having a willing-to-spend, not-willing-to-meddle owner in Arison, plus talks about what it means to be part of the Heat family, something to which Mourning can attest.
And Riley also speaks about building a dynasty, the word he’s been using with Heat fans for months.
Given all that, these days could largely define a huge portion of Riley’s Heat legacy.
Wade has said he wants to stay, but he will leave if Riley doesn’t make the moves that turn Miami into a championship contender again. Although Wade was the clear leader of the 2006 title team — his finals MVP trophy proves that — he’s lamented not getting out of the first round of the playoffs since.
When he reached downtown, James couldn’t help but see signs saying: Home.
Two Cavaliers employees were on the four corners of East 9th Street and St. Clair, holding signs with words dear to James such as “Community,” ”Family” and “Mission.”
“I think we’ve got about 36 people all over town with these signs,” said Nate Ferrall, a 39-year-old Clevelander, who refused to confirm he works for the Cavs. “We just want to remind LeBron that this is his home and that we support him.”
AP Sports Writers Tim Reynolds in Miami and Larry Lage contributed to this report.