LeBron James, Dwyane Wade talk Bulls
"It was two mornings," Wade said at Friday's practice ahead of the Heat's matchup against the top-seeded Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals.
Standing next to Wade to the Heat practice facility, James admitted he had similar thoughts.
"I definitely had one or two mornings where I woke up thinking I'd be a Bull too, but ultimately I decided to come here," James said.
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James and Wade were two of the most prized free agents in the summer of 2010 along with stars such as New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh, Bulls forward Carlos Boozer and Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson.
After the all the meetings and speculation, Wade chose to return to Miami where he spent the first seven seasons of his career, while James decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and join the Heat.
Unlike James, choosing Chicago would have been a homecoming for Wade, who grew up in Chicago, owns a home there and attended nearby Marquette University in Milwaukee. Wade reflected fondly on the multiple meetings he had with Chicago brass this summer.
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"It was flattering," Wade said. "I grew up in the city and grew up with my dreams of becoming an NBA player with the Chicago Bulls. They gave a great presentation, great opportunity. I just felt that the Miami opportunity was better. That's what it came down to."
Henry Thomas, the Chicago-based agent for Wade and Bosh, said the competition for Wade was tight.
"I think it was very close," he said to ESPNChicago.com. "We obviously -- before the process started -- we talked about how we were going to handle it. Once we began and once the presentations were made, the Bulls' presentation was as good as any -- if not better.
"The decision became a lot more difficult than he imagined how it would be. Obviously for him the Chicago one was special because he grew up here. As a young kid, he idolized Michael [Jordan] and all those teams. I know when we went in for the presentation, they had a uniform with his name and number on it. As a kid growing up here you dreamed of having that uniform on. For that reason it was difficult."
When asked about his meetings with the Chicago front office, James spoke highly of them as well.
"It was definitely flattering," James said Friday. "It was a great meeting with that team and that franchise knowing the history. There was great things that they said but at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best opportunity for me to win a championship. It was a great experience."
James and Wade each said they do not look back and imagine what it would be like if they chose Chicago instead of Miami.
"No," Wade said. "I'm fine. Not at all."
Even though Wade owns a home in the city, the Heat guard said he will be staying in a hotel with the team.
"I'm going to my house only to grab some shoes maybe but that's it," Wade said. "I'm staying at the hotel. I want to keep this like the road. Obviously my mom and my family will be there but I don't even have a lot of family there. I will keep it strictly about business, about what we need to do.
"I have a lot of time this summer to be in my house."
On July 7, Wade and Bosh announced together that they would join the Miami Heat ahead of James' announcement. To facilitate Bosh's move, the Toronto Raptors completed a sign-and-trade on July 9 that sent Bosh to Miami for two draft picks and a trade exception.
James, the two-time MVP, spent seven seasons in Cleveland before choosing to sign with the Heat as a free agent. Instead of doing a nationwide tour, James stayed in Cleveland and met with representatives from the New Jersey Nets, Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers, Cavaliers, Bulls and Heat before finally coming to his decision.
Wade and James are set to begin their Eastern Conference final series against the Bulls on Sunday in Chicago. The Bulls beat the Hawks 4-2 in the Eastern semifinals while the Heat sent home the defending conference champion Boston Celtics in five games.
The Heat finished the regular season 58-24 to earn the second seed in the playoffs. By finishing four games ahead of Miami, Chicago will have home-court advantage in the upcoming series.
Tom Haberstroh is a writer for ESPN Insider. ESPNChicago.com's Roman Modrowski contributed to this report.
2011 NBA FINALS
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