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LeBron James... But Wait, There's More

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"The Decision" ended up as The Debacle. Would it have hurt LeBron James to use a little class and make his decision off the air?

Getty Images for Estabrook Group

My son has been talking nonstop about seeing this movie that's coming out this weekend. Now, I was under the impression by all the promotion for it that it wasn't coming out until today, but to my surprise "Despicable Me" wasn't in theatres at all.

No, it was on Prime Time TV last night at 6 p.m. AZT. Despicable Me was playing on ESPN and it wasn't starring that funny dude Steve Carrell at all. Instead, it was starring LBJ.

This version of Despicable Me was everything I thought it would be: self-serving, self-gratifying, selfish... you get the point. Let's get one thing clear off the top; I don't fault LBJ for making "the decision." (By the way, I feel like any time I use that combination of words, I'm always going to want to put them in parentheses... odd.) 

Anyway, The King did have that right as a player to decide where he wanted to play, just like several other players this summer did. So he feels that going to South Beach gives him the best shot to finally win it all. Good for him.

What absolutely made me want to toss my lunch was how this whole thing was turned into just another pathetic display of reality TV for all the world to see. I was torn between wanting and needing to watch and at the same time not wanting to continue to feed the beasts (LBJ & ESPN) by adding another viewer to what clearly will be a viewing and ratings bonanza.

So, like many of you, I watched starting right at 6, just like they told us to, because that's when he was going to make the announcement. But "the decision" didn't actually occur until around 6:27 p.m.. I mean what's a story like this without the huge build up to the big moment?

In media terms, an important category is "time spent viewing" or "time spent listening" (in radio). These are coveted categories within the ratings numbers that networks hit sponsors with to command big $$. Since ESPN had agreed to let LBJ and his Entourage have an hour of their programming block, they had to get something in return (besides monster ratings). It was a sort of mini pregame show of sorts where Stuart Scott asked his panel (Chris Broussard, Michael Wilbon and Jon Barry) no less than 3 times in that 23-minute span what they thought he was going to do.

Again, no real surprise here since ABC (parent company of ESPN) is home to reality TV hits. According to the numbers out today, the show/event/circus/spectacle (not sure what to call it!) was viewed by 7.8% of homes in the US, which made for the highest rated non-football show on the network. That doesn't take into account the huge web traffic numbers that were generated due to the buzz that had reached vuvuzelua levels in the last week! 

There have been a number of reports out in the last 24 hours that this event has been in the works for awhile now, despite what the talking heads at ESPN would have you believe. They made it sound almost like they had no choice -- that if they didn't do it, someone else would and well, by god, we're not gonna let that happen! (Insert journalistic integrity here.)

We don't know if this was Bron Bron himself who came up with this mastermind plan or if it was one of the members of his circle (see: high school buddies). The Entourage show on TV is much better and it's just that -- a TV show. Bron and his boys apparently have watched a few too many episodes. Wonder if they put the names in the hat to see which character they each would be? "Damn, man, I don't wanna be Drama. Let's do it again!"

Over the last couple of years, all we've heard about is how LeBron wants to brand his image globally. He wants to do more than win games and championships (zero to this point, by the way). He wants to be a global icon in both sports and business.

All of this talk comes as a result of what Michael Jordan created for himself while he was playing. Where Bron and his boys get lost, though, is that MJ created that through winning games, titles, MVPs, scoring titles, etc. None of what his airness did was contrived in the way LBJ and his boys are attempting to do. 

The LeBrontourage, as I'll call them, seems so intent on creating this empire that they've forgotten there are certain things that have to be done along the way in order to do it right. But this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. What kind of business experience do his buddies have? These are all 24- to 26-year old dudes who were put on the payroll and they know who cuts the checks. Can't rock the boat, baby, even if one of them had a gut feeling this whole thing stunk to high heaven. 

You really want to build your image -- your legacy -- Lebron, how 'bout starting with a little class and dignity? Yes, you earned the right to play for whoever you wanted to play for and for that I have no problem. It was the haymaker you delivered to the Cavaliers, owner Dan Gilbert and the fans there. What, a simple phone call would've been too much? Oh, that's right... you couldn't do that because then people would know your "decision" and they wouldn't tune in to see you on TV.

I actually laughed when he said this whole free agent process had been humbling. Really? You can say that with a straight face? There was zero humility on that pathetic show last night and, like a national talk show host said earlier in the week about all this, when you constantly tell people how humble you are, then you're not really humble. That was on full display last night. Yes, the Boys and Girls Club of America was the beneficiary of the $$ generated last night, but I'm guessing even those folks are taking a couple of extra showers today.

Maybe in the end, the pressure of being a homegrown boy just got to be too much for LBJ. Maybe he truly feels like he can get that ring (I'm not ready to give him multiple rings till he wins one) with his buddies (not part of LeBrontourage) in South beach.

With all of that said, how 'bout showing a little class and simply look Dan Gilbert in the eye and say it's time to move on? "Thank you for all you've done for me and your efforts to win a title, but I gotta make this move." 

Would it hurt? Hell yeah. But it wouldn't have been a nationally televised haymaker. LeBron revealed a lot about himself over the last three months. From his lackluster play in the last few games of the playoffs to his handling of this big moment. He may have the self-anointed title of The King, but he's certainly done nothing to earn it yet.

Oh and by the way, word on the streets is that ABC/ESPN (same thing) are working on getting LBJ and Dan Gilbert on a new show they're pitching called The Aftermath. Stay tuned for details.