LeBron James received a hero's welcome by 13,000 adoring Miami Heat fans Friday evening -- as spurned fans around the country licked their wounds.
Fellow superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined the two-time MVP on stage at AmericanAirlines Arena, each player emerging from behind plumes of smoke and showing off their new Heat uniforms.
Heat broadcaster Eric Reid called the trio the "Three Kings" as the program got under way around 9 p.m., an hour behind schedule.
"It feels right," James told fans while sporting a No 3 jersey instead of his usual 23. "We are going to let the world know the Heat is back."
"Let's get this thing done," Bosh told the crowd, which earlier broke into "Beat L.A." chants.
Bosh sported a No. 1 jersey in place of his usual No. 4, because as Wade said, he "wanted a new beginning."
Wade said he also weighed switching his number but then "realized, three is magical."
James, who said he would be "taking my talents to South Beach" on a much anticipated ESPN special Thursday night, arrived at Miami International Airport around 3 a.m., just hours after announcing that he will join Wade and Bosh for the upcoming season.
James was met at the airport by team president and legendary former coach Pat Riley, then jumped in a Cadillac Escalade bound for a luxury hotel where a mob of media and fans awaited.
James strolled into the hotel around 3:30 a.m., wearing sunglasses as cameras popped and fans welcomed him to his new home.
"Total goosebumps, everybody was cheering," said Heat fan Mario Valdes, who was at the hotel. "It's an amazing experience seeing someone of that stature coming to this city and trying to support our team...proud to be a Heat fan."
Riley, who sports pundits are already speculating will soon return to the floor as coach, gushed over the prospect of having triple superstars on the court.
“We are thrilled that LeBron James and Chris Bosh have decided to come to Miami to join forces with our truly great player, Dwyane Wade," he said. "We are looking forward to the opportunity of building something that our fans in Miami will be proud of for a long, long time. The journey is just beginning.”
Meanwhile, both leading tabloids in New York were on the same wavelength in summarizing James' decision not to go to the Big Apple. "Son of a Beach," the Daily News and New York Post's back pages screamed.
In Cleveland, the town James bolted after seven years, the scorn came from Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert, who posted a letter to fans on the team's website blasting James' free agency announcement as a "narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his 'decision' unlike anything ever 'witnessed' in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment."
"You simply don't deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal," Gilbert said. "I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER 'KING' WINS ONE."