Posted Friday, July 9, 2010, at 12:37 PM
"This fall," LeBron James
on last night's ESPN broadcast
, "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat." James' talents do not include geography. The Heat play at the American Airlines Arena in Downtown Miami. South Beach sits some six miles east of the Heat's home base, on the other side of Biscayne Bay.
It's no crime that James, a lifelong Akron, Ohio resident, is fuzzy on the Miami street plan. But the South Beach slip is revealing. For months, pundits had been calculating
that would swing LeBron's choice. Was he after a max contract? Multiple championship rings? Did he want to "expand his global brand"? Would he be swayed by loyalty to Cleveland? Few asked the question: Where would a 25-year-old black multimillionaire most want to live?
Whatever else James' decision reveals, it is a signal moment for cultural demographers. The LeBron James of an earlier era might have been drawn to New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. (Franchises in all three cities were in the bidding for his services.) But over the past decade, Miami—or rather, South Beach—has become the leading mecca of the black celebrity class. Its oceanfront condo towers are a magnet for African-American athletes, musicians, and entertainment industry professionals; its nightclubs and hotels are celebrated endlessly in hip-hop songs and videos. In short, South Beach is a party-hearty resort strip that occupies a place similar to Harlem in the 1920s—it is black America's most glamorous neighborhood. Where else would LeBron James want to take his talents, to lay his head?