The most high-profile free agent in NBA history turned down a lot of money and turned his back on his hometown fans to join a team he thinks can win multiple titles and begin doing it immediately.
LeBron James’ decision to sign with the Miami Heat and unite with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his former Olympic teammates from the gold-medal winning "Redeem Team," immediately had many fans and analysts ready to engrave the NBA trophy.
At least one local sports book director thinks the hype might be justified.
"In my opinion, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are two of the top three players in the league, and Bosh is as good as it gets at the forward position," M Resort sports book director Mike Colbert said. "I don’t see how you can make anyone the favorite but Miami."
The Heat have been installed as the 9-5 favorite to win the NBA title at the M Resort sports book. The two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are 7-2, and the Orlando Magic are the distant third choice at 13-1.
Colbert said his property has kept the odds to win next year’s championship on the board throughout the free-agency process, but the numbers have been evolving.
The Heat opened at 20-1 about a month ago, but Colbert said there were no takers at that price.
"We never took any bets at that number, but we did have it up for a few days. You heard things could be happening, so they went to 10-1 for quite some time," Colbert said. "When they got Bosh, they went to 5-1. As we started to hear the LeBron rumor, they went to 4-1, then 3-1. This morning, we opened them 2-1. Once it was confirmed 100 percent, we had them at 9-5."
Micah Roberts, a former sports book director who covers sports gaming for Vegas Insider and Gaming Today, disagrees with the notion that the Heat are favorites at this stage.
"If you just look on paper, the Lakers are still the team to beat," he said. "I don’t think you can say the Heat, even with those three players, are a great team. It’s just three guys. It’s not a team. You’re going to put a bunch of guys around them that are either castoffs playing for the league minimum or rookies. Next year, yeah, sure. I really don’t see it their first year out, though."
He said installing the Heat as the favorite is a matter of playing to public overreaction.
"That number is more on the basis of the wow factor. It’s not about what you think is going to happen," Roberts said. "It’s more about protecting the house against the onslaught of action. Right now, this is a hot topic and the action’s going to come regardless of the number."
The adjusted number was on the board at the M Resort within five minutes of James’ announcement, as Colbert said all the preliminary information pointed toward the Heat landing the prized free agent.
The number for the Cleveland Cavaliers was affected more dramatically.
"The Cavs were 10-1, and now they’re 300-1," Colbert said.
The Heat are a hefty minus-160 favorite to win the Eastern Conference. Colbert said the M Resort will offer the field in the East at plus-140.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509.