It could not be more damaging to the career of Andrew Dice Clay if it had been made as a documentary by someone who hated him.
– Roger Ebert on Dice Rules
He could have just as easily had been describing LeBron James’ portrayal of LeBron James in ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary “LeBron James: Decision”. Wait? It’s not a 30 for 30? My bad. I will admit – I watched. As an NBA fan and a self proclaimed pop culture aficionado, how could I not? Besides getting the news story – that he is going to the Heat, making them the favorites in the East even if they get 9 cab drivers to occupy the remaining roster spots – the special was reality TV at its worst and most inevitable.
Indeed, this could not have done more to hurt James’ image than an expose by somebody who despised him. That this production was devised by his management team and midwifed by ESPN makes it utterly flabbergasting. If the World Cup was ESPN at its best, this is the Worldwide Leader might have been rock bottom. Given that they were the network behind “Who’s Hot?” and Dick Vitale’s xenophobic rants on the NBA draftcast, that’s saying something.
Now, the first thing TS mentioned to me was that all he wants to do is win – isn’t that like other ath-a-letes? After all, as a Celtics fan, isn’t this the same as what happened in 2008 when the Celtics landed Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen? If one wants to make that argument, I can see it to a degree. However, Kevin Garnett was one of the 5 best players of the 2000s, and was on a team that was below .500. So was Ray Allen and Pierce. They were in pretty horrendous situations – and all past their primes. The strategy employed by Boston was VERY high risk – that it has gotten a title and a runner up is the high end outcome. On the other hand, LeBron, at the height of his powers, is leaving a contender (for all the bashing the Cavaliers deservedly get as an organization, this team won 128 games in 2 seasons and only lost to teams that were arguably at least as good as they were) to form a super team. Bill Simmons posited that this was all decided as early as 2007. “A few weeks after the 2008 Summer Olympics, Someone Who Knows Things told me the following rumor: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Chris Paul became such good friends during the 2007 Olympic trials, and then during their 2008 Olympics excursion in Beijing, that they actually made a pact in China to play together.” In other words, the best basketball player in the world might be a fifteen year old girl. Futhermore, where is the urge to beat the best? At their peak, I reckon Bird wanted to beat Magic, not join him. This whole thing reveals the sort of competitor he actually is. In other words – not what we thought.
But enough of the competitive ramifications – the Heat will be good, period. What one marvels at is the utter tone deafness of LeBron’s team during the entire run. For instance, there is the very real possibility that LeBron has been sitting on this news for a long time. But instead of a presscon and full paged ad to Cleveland fans, like a normal player might do (ok, maybe even a tweet) – LeBron’s team put together a one hour show – hired noted hack Jim Gray to interview him, and sold it to ESPN. ESPN of course, got exactly what it wanted. He set it at the Greenwich, Connecticut Boys and Girls Club – the noted trick of surrounding him with kids so no really inflammatory questions can be asked (not that Gray, on LeBron’s payroll, would do that) – leaving open the possibility of Vince McMahon showing up.
But alas no Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Brett Michaels or any other possibility of actual entertainment or insight followed. The studio show had league partner Stuart Scott and the ABC NBA crew of John Barry, Wilbon etc. The possibility of asking him why he chose a national TV forum to publicly urinate on the people of Cleveland was basically zero. They made empty headed happy talk – they had correspondents at all the relvant NBA cities. I remember thinking how absurd the depiction of the chase for Jesus Shuttlesworth was in He Got Game – it turns out that Spike Lee was 12 years too early.
Anyway then, Jim Gray started with his questions – idiotic small talk, and it took a FULL 25 MINUTES before LeBron made the announcement. He confessed he did not tell any of the other pursuing teams until now. He announced his departure “I am taking my skills to South Beach” and that was that – except there were 30 more minutes of air time to fill. The only satisfactory moment was his uncomfortable look throughout the interview and especially at a burning jersey shown to him from Cleveland.
Now, Cleveland fans should not be burning jerseys, and Dan Gilbert is a spectacular hypocrite. After all LeBron changed basketball teams – he didn’t flood Lake Erie with crude oil or anything. He has the right to change employers – as we all do. HOWEVER, the choice to go on national television and publicly embarass his fans by leaving them (in other words, he turned heel, he broke up on the jumbotron … that is a bit less forgiveable. How did his team think it was a good idea? It was the greatest emasculation a city’s sports fans could ever have – and for no reason. What was LeBron thinking? We’ll never know.