If my dad had not been born on this date, I would forever remember it as the day in which the inflated egos of professional athletes reached an all-time high. I would remember it as the day in which my faith in professional athletes to show a little decency hit an all-time low. I would remember it as the day in which professional athletes thought they were worthy enough to air on national television a special about their next business move.
Thank God for my Dad.
Today marks the one year anniversary of Lebron James’ infamous “The Decision” special in which he told a live ESPN audience that he would be leaving Cleveland and “taking his talents to South Beach.” A year later I am still appalled by the spectacle that Lebron put on during the summer of 2010. It was the epitome of selfishness and ego. In this post I will touch on the implications of Lebron’s decision one year later. However, as I usually do, I want to digress on one year ago briefly.
I hate to say it but I really believe “The Decision” is one of those moments for sports fans that you recall in the same way as where you were when Kennedy was shot or what you were doing the morning of 9/11. You can immediately place yourself in the exact moment of where you were and what you were doing when King James uttered his famous words. There was just so much build up and hype for an event that had simply never happened before and it was involving arguably the best known basketball player in the world. Not only that, but the secret of where Lebron was going to go was pretty much a well-kept secret all the way up until about three hours before “The Decision”. Still, even after reports surfaced that Lebron would sign with the Heat, you still did not know for sure. You had to watch.
I was traveling from Missoula to Seattle to watch the Mariners-Yankees series on that Thursday evening. With ESPN radio cutting out on me and 6pm approaching, I pulled off I-90 and took the Superior, Montana, exit. Superior is a small town in Montana with a population of about 900. I had never stopped in the town before but I was not going to miss out on seeing something I had never really seen before. I pulled up to some bush league sports bar and went inside. The two televisions in the place were tuned to the news so I asked the bartender if he would change it to ESPN. He responded with “Shit, that is tonight, huh?” and happily obliged. The people in the bar were beyond friendly. The bartender, myself, and the three regulars started off watching intently. Then, as ESPN smartly and predictably did, they drew out “The Decision” to the very last ten minutes of the hour before they cut to Lebron and Jim Gray. By then I was already three Cold Smokes in. We watched as Lebron indicated the team he was going to sign with. After that, I left, probably never to step into that bar or that town again. However, I will always remember sitting down in that beat up old sports bar with a bartender who shook my hand upon entrance and regulars who bought me my first beer while we watched Lebron make a decision that would go down in history.
Besides just the selfishness of the idea of broadcasting to the country where you are going to play next, I detested “The Decision” for how Lebron’s camp organized it. They demanded that they bring in Jim Gray, a person who did not even work for ESPN and who was closely aligned with James, to do the interview. As I mentioned above, they drew out the special for a whole hour, basically making it a Lebron James love fest. King James was front and center on national television for 60 minutes when the start of the NBA season was months away. They demanded that the show take place at their desired location with their desired layout of the set. What got me the most though was how Lebron and his cronies tried to spin their whole motive for the special by saying they were trying to help out charity. Give me a break. Sure, they supposedly donated the money accumulated from the sale of commercial space to one charity but let’s not kid ourselves here. Lebron did that special to promote and support Lebron, not some charity. Needless to say, “The Decision” was worse than even I expected.
Looking back on everything a year removed now, I am pretty sure Lebron regrets “The Decision”. No, he does not regret his decision to play for the Miami Heat (in my opinion it was a great decision), he just regrets his choice to make his name and his brand the number one priority on a summer night that he had really no business being a part of. If for some reason all the analysts are wrong and if Lebron’s supposed “I just want to be accepted” attitude is a myth, maybe Lebron has no soul because the backlash he received this season was incredible.
All it took was the offseason of 2010 for Lebron to transform from a guy people rooted for and admired to a guy people jeered and despised. I know his decision to play with other superstars and his habit of saying really stupid things (i.e. “same life” rant) also helped his image take a colossal hit but it was “The Decision” that really made him a villain. Case in point, Lebron’s appeal rating dropped from 71.5 percent before “The Decision” to 60.5% after the special (CNBC.com). Today, one year later, his appeal rating is 57%. “The Decision” killed Lebron among fans.
However, I think “The Decision” backlash hit Lebron even harder from a different source: the media. Throughout the NBA regular season and especially during the playoffs, Lebron was ripped by the media. Yes, I know there are still many King James lovers working in the press but there was definitely a pronounced change in how he was portrayed. Turn on sports talk radio and it was especially brutal. Do I think Lebron deserved all of the crap the media gave him this season? Not necessarily. But I do believe that Lebron brought it upon himself. King James made his bed and he has to sleep in it.
Can Lebron James ever win back his image prior to what it was before “The Decision”? Well, a couple titles wouldn’t hurt. Honestly though, I believe Lebron needs to come out and directly apologize for staging “The Decision”. Last month he hinted that it was probably not the best career move he has made. Lebron, take it one step further and just admit that you were way too caught up in your own ego and stupidity. Apologize. I think it would help you out a lot. It is no secret that you do care what others think of you. You have an opportunity to turn the opinion of the masses in a positive direction. Put your ego aside and man up. Don’t Blink.