Exclusive: LeBron James on Miami Heat Decision

Superstar said it "hurts" to move on, but wants to "be alongside greatness."

ByABC News via logo
July 8, 2010, 5:16 PM

July 9, 2010 — -- LeBron James said in an exclusive morning television interview that, while it was decidedly tough to leave his home city of Cleveland, he chose to play for the Miami Heat because he wanted the opportunity to "be alongside greatness."

"Ultimately, the decision had to come from me. To be alongside greatness raises your level," James told "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts in an interview which aired today, referring to recent Heat acquisitions Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

James, arguably the NBA's greatest player, said he made his decision as visions of championships danced in his head.

"I've won at every level, won championships at every level," James said. "It won't be fulfilled until I win at the highest level."

CLICK HERE to read the full transcript of Robin Roberts' interview with LeBron James.

While James' decision -- announced during a live primetime television special on ESPN Thursday evening -- was met with euphoria in Miami, it sent shockwaves of outrage through Cleveland, Ohio, home to the Cavaliers where James made his NBA debut and has played for the last seven years.

Some former fans burned number 23 jerseys and the Cavaliers' majority owner, Dan Gilbert, released a scathing open letter about the decision, personally guaranteeing that the Cavs would win an NBA title "before the self-titled former 'King' wins one."

"You simply don't deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal," Gilbert told fans in the letter. "If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our 'motivation' to previously unknown and previously never-experienced levels."

CLICK HERE to read the full text of Gilbert's open letter.

Without LeBron it's estimated the Cavs value plummetted $250 million overnight.

For his part, LeBron likened his departure from Cleveland to breaking up a long-term relationship.

"It's almost like a relationship you may have with a lady, where you've been with that person for seven years and you've seen it all. You've grown together. You've been through the ups and downs. And one day you guys just don't see it the same way," James told "GMA." It hurts me to say that I'm moving on. But I have to do what's best."

Shortly after the announcement, ESPN showed James footage of the burning jerseys.

"I can't get involved in that," James said. "One thing I didn't want to do was make an emotional decision. I wanted to do what was best for LeBron James and what LeBron James was going to do to make him happy. ... This is a business, and I had seven great years in Cleveland."

Miami Heat president Pat Riley and Wade posted far more ecstatic messages on their team's website.

"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," Riley 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."

James told "GMA" that the stakes for this new journey couldn't be higher.

"The expectation and pressure doesn't get much higher," he said. "I've exceeded every individual thing that you have to do, but now, the highest expectation is there now and that's to win an NBA title and do it in South Beach."