GREENWICH, Conn. - Outside the Boys & Girls Club here, the first LeBron James fan showed up just past 9 a.m. yesterday. The first television satellite truck arrived three hours before him.
By the time James finally was inside the brick-faced building and was asked the question that everyone in the sports world had been waiting for, the crowd of rubberneckers had swelled to an estimated 700.
They were mostly Knicks fans, wearing jerseys with the names Ewing and Starks, Reed and Frazier. They had passed the time cheering "Let's Go Knicks," hoping against hope that James was coming.
When the moment of truth finally came, they were in a tense, hushed silence, broken only by the sound of a policeman talking into a bullhorn.
"He's made his decision," the policeman said. "It's the Miami Heat."
Just like that, all the energy and all the buzz was gone. The people booed, then turned around and left, disgusted and disappointed. This definitely was not the news they had come to hear.
Chris Jewett, a 31-year-old Knicks fan from White Plains, came prepared with a professionally made two-sided sign. One side read "All Hail the KING"; the other read "LeBum."
"I'd like for him to come to the Knicks," Jewett said. "If he doesn't, we have to let it be known."
And then there was 16-year-old Paul Mascarenhas, who was sitting on the curb donning an orange throwback Cavaliers jersey with James' name plastered on the back.
Mascarenhas lives in Fairfield but said he has lots of family in Akron, Ohio. His grandmother doesn't live too far from James' palatial estate there, and Mascarenhas proudly said he's driven by it.
With such a strong connection to James, he remained confident all day that James wasn't leaving.
"Everybody in my family thinks he's going to stay," he said. "I don't think he would leave his own people, especially on national television."
Like everyone else, he came to catch a glimpse of the self-proclaimed King. And he arranged to call his home at 9 p.m. and have his mother put the phone to the television so he could listen in.
That's actually what a lot of people did around 9 p.m. A few had radios and blasted them as loud as they could, but most everyone else was glued to a cell phone, listening intently.
It already had been one heck of a bizarre scene, with some people climbing a tree in hopes of watching through the windows of the gymnasium. Many others brought their own lawn chairs and sat on the sidewalk with coolers by their side.
About the only person that people didn't see, however, was James himself. When he finally arrived just before 9, he did so with a police escort. The street already had been closed down, and fans rushed toward the cars.
But in a matter of seconds, the cars had disappeared. And not too long later, so did all the dreams of seeing James join the Knicks.
With Mike Gavin