Witness the Decision
I’m pretty sure I like LeBron James a lot less today than I did about two months ago. Back then, he was a player who everyone was sure could lead his team to a title and was probably the unquestioned best basketball player on Earth.
Today, he’s an attention whore who wants us all to anxiously await the moment he "decides" what team he’s going to suit up for next season.
OK, that’s probably a little too roughly worded for someone who strives to be as objective an observer as possible. But that doesn’t make it untrue. LeBron has been holding us hostage for two years, leaving us to hypothesize which city he plans to call home during the ’10-’11 NBA season. And franchise owners and general managers have held fire sales in the name of getting under the cap for the opportunity to sign our generation’s most physically gifted baller. Jobs hinge on making this happen. The economy of an entire city (this means you, Cleveland) hangs in the balance. All on the whim and fancy of a dude in his mid-20s.
The sad thing is that we’ve all been drawn in. The world wants to know what LeBron James is going to do. And this is apparently the way he has wanted it to be since he chose to sign a contract with the Cavaliers that gave him the option of becoming a free agent earlier than is customary for a player of his caliber. We’re all witnesses, mere pawns in this game of chess he calls life.
This is why I’m disgusted that ESPN has given him an hour of prime time television (aptly named "The Decision") to reveal the best-kept secret since David Stern rigged the draft to keep King James in Cleveland. Keeping us in suspense isn’t enough, he wants us to focus on him for an entire hour while he builds up to telling us something that could be said in less than five minutes. He’s bringing in his own host, has restricted the people who will be able to ask him questions about his decision and he just might draw the biggest television audience ever for a "sporting event."
I’m ashamed to say that I will absolutely be one of the people watching.
Sure, I could sit it out and just hear about it afterward, but it’s incredible news. The last month has seen sports-related programming turn into all-LeBron-all-the-time. Watching SportsCenter pretty much guarantees that you will get 20 minutes of banter about where the King will land and who he’ll bring with him. I have seen reports linking him to every possible destination (except L.A. Sorry, Clippers fans) with each one trusting a reliable source and being pretty certain that they were correct.
He’s the puppet master pulling all of our strings. He knows we want to know what he’s going to do. He knows that we know he knows we know what he wants to do. And it doesn’t matter. We all sit and wait because this decision could seriously impact not only the sports world, but the everyday life for lots of people. It’s actually an incredible move on his part. He and his boys have turned an ordinary event into the biggest moment of the year. Seriously, I haven’t heard anything about the oil spill cleanup this week and I hear only faint rumblings about the heatwave on the East Coast, yet I know what LeBron wore to his meetings with the various teams. I know that LeBron has debuted a website for which he is supposed to be in control of the content. There’s the new Twitter account. I half expect a reporter to tell us what sort of toothpaste LeBron uses and how it makes his breath smell.
The other big names in the free agent market– Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson– have all made their decisions. We thought originally that LeBron would determine where these guys landed, but it appears they’ve grown tired of playing the waiting game and have chosen their paths without knowing what the James will do. Maybe these guys could have commanded such an audience but it’s unlikely. They lack what LeBron has, despite having similar– and in some cases superior– resumes and accomplishments. He has that something that we’re all drawn to. And he’s going to flex it Thursday night for all to see.
So what should we expect? I’d guess we’ll hear some talking about what a difficult decision this has been for LeBron. We’ll hear someone interview him about the process and tell us how tempted he was by every pitch thrown at him. Some guys in expensive suits will throw him softball questions about why he chose the team he chose. There’ll be some dramatic build-up to the final decision, possibly involving hats, long pauses and charitable commercial breaks to build the tension. And then he’ll tell us that he’s going to New York. Or New Jersey. Or Chicago. Or Miami. Or that he’s staying in Cleveland. And that he never seriously considered offers from Dallas and the Clippers. OK, not that last sentence, but it’s probably the truth.
And we’ll be there, transfixed in front of our television sets as we watch what I’m ashamed to call history. And then we’ll know his plans. And we’ll spend the next month dissecting that decision and the month after that talking about whether his choice has put him in position to win that elusive title.
LeBron will be pleased. He’ll likely look forward to the next time he gets this opportunity and he’ll figured out a way to make an even bigger spectacle. And we’ll all be there again, holding our collective breath as he reveals his next step in his quest for billionaire status, for world domination.
And I’ll be watching somewhere, thinking about how I like LeBron a little less than I did a couple months ago.
[image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/imagine24/]