LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh officially became Miami Heat teammates last week, turning a Pat Riley vision nearly three years in the making into glorious reality and simultaneously unleashing a torrent of suspicion: Was it planned all along? If so, was it tampering? Illegal?
The answer, as far as N.B.A. officials are concerned, is an emphatic no.
Tampering is when a player or team, directly or indirectly entices, induces or persuades anybody (player, general manager, etc.) who is under contract to another team to negotiate for their services.
Although each player was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of last season, each was technically still under contract to his existing team through June 30.
Since James’ announcement on July 8, which followed those of Wade and Bosh the day before, rival teams and frustrated fans have wondered whether the outcome was predetermined. The three players had spoken openly of convening a “free-agent summit” to discuss their plans, well before free agency formally opened. They reportedly conferred with each other throughout the process.
Suspicions became more concrete on Saturday, when The Cleveland Plain Dealer published a detailed narrative that traced the alliance back to 2006, when James, Wade and Bosh became teammates for USA Basketball. The article, based mostly on anonymous sources, referred to “a complex master plan that was the trio’s desire for much of the past four years.”
The issue of tampering was discussed at the N.B.A. owners meeting in Las Vegas on Monday.
“What we told the owners was that the three players are totally, as our system has evolved, within their rights to talk to each other,” Commissioner David Stern said after the meeting.
Players on different teams who discuss the idea of someday playing together “is not tampering or collusion that is prohibited,” Stern said. Read more…