The End Of The LeBron Ego Fest

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - July 14, 2010
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LeBron James, new king of Miami

It was the biggest story of the year. We know this because ESPN kept telling us so. Every day we were inundated with news about no news. After not too long, they didn’t even try to hide the fact that they had no information about LeBron James’ plans. Yet there they were, four days before the big announcement, Stuart Scott and J.A. Adande, talking about James just moments after Scott opened the segment saying there was no new information.

Thank God it’s over!

James is now a Heater, or whatever. He’s now part of the best team in the East, provided they have the cap space to fill the roster with anything more than dead weight.

Most important, “The Decision” is done. After a week of hype and about 75 minutes of coverage, perhaps the most self serving program in history is over, to live on in YouTube repeats and Bristol brainstorming sessions.

Everyone played their roles in promoting this atrocity. Radio man Colin Cowherd justified the programming saying it was great PR for the league, and that several high schoolers have held national press conferences to announce which school they are attending. Cowherd conveniently left out the fact that the sham was produced not by the league but from James’ business partners, and that the previously mention prepsters had done so on the very same network.


He also blasted Magic coach Stan Van Gundy who, during an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, called the one-hour program a joke and a waste of time.

“I mean, it’s almost like a parody of itself, this whole situation now,” said Van Gundy in the interview. “Come on, an hour long? OK, it takes 15 seconds to say, ‘I’ve decided to stay in Cleveland.’ But we’ve got another 59 minutes and 45 seconds to, what, promote LeBron James? As if we don’t do that enough.” Chalk one up for the Ron Jeremy of the NBA.

ESPN was correct in broadcasting the announcement. Even without the help of the marketing department, James’ decision was big news and had the potential to affect more than one NBAhot spot.

Fine. But this special blew past basic reporting and did nothing more mollycoddle James’massive ego and the network’s own impression of self-worth.

Much like the hours of speculation devoted to Brett Favre a year ago, the “Where’s LeBron” programming loop was just another example of a media outlet inventing drama for the sake of ratings. James’ business manager, Maverick Carter, said on lebronjames.com: “Due to the unprecedented attention and interest surrounding LeBron’s decision, we have decided to make this announcement on national television.” The “unprecedented attention” was almost entirely media-generated and was carefully planned out to have the biggest commercial impact for both James and the network.

So bizarre was the whole arrangement that ESPN used itself as an unnamed source. A week ago its Web site reported that, “Sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard that representatives for James contacted the network, proposing the idea of a dedicated special.”

Jim Gray, who according to CNBC was paid by team LeBron, was hand picked to kick off the festivities. Gray says he was only given a small stipen. ESPN, after initially saying they didn’t know Gray was paid for his travel, recanted and later said they had paid for the travel.

Whatever.

Gray stuck to the script and spent 22 minutes peppering James - who went third person three times - with 15 softball questions. “Everybody (the NBAteams in consideration) is on pins and needles waiting your decision,” Gray said to James on two different occasions, even after LeBron said the winning team had been notified earlier that day.

Riveting.

The Gray interview was preceded by dark and emotional voiceovers calling James the biggest free agent prize in NBA history - even though Wilt Chamberlain and Moses Malone had both signed free-agent deals with new teams following MVP seasons - and Scott setting the stage, saying “... at stake is the NBA’s balance of power.


At last the time has come.”

Then there was the studio team who expressed their concern over pressure James had to face while making the difficult decision. “It’s got to be tough,” they all agreed.

All thanks be the World Wide Leader. We wouldn’t know what news was if ESPN didn’t create it.

 

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