“The Decision” — a televised announcement about LeBron James‘s free-agent plans in 2010 — was an idea that sounded good to LeBron’s tight circle of advisors. They loved the idea, the drama. Other fans across America… not so much. It came off like as egotistical, felt like slap in the face to Cleveland and the other teams he didn’t choose, plus it just played poorly with casual fans everywhere. The event did raise money for charity but started a PR backlash against LeBron that took years for him to overcome.
Whose idea was “The Decision?” Not LeBron’s. Not his business partner Maverick Carter’s. Not Jim Gray’s. Not his agent Leon Rose or World Wide Wes. Not anyone in his inner circle.
The idea came from someone writing into then ESPN employee Bill Simmons’ mailbag column, something confirmed in an episode of “Backstory,” this one on The Decision, which first at 9 p.m. Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. From a story on that show:
“What if LeBron announces he will pick his 2010-11 team live on ABC on a certain date for a show called ‘LeBron’s Choice?’” wrote Drew, with no last name published. “What type of crazy ratings would that get?”
Simmons replied, “If LeBron were smart, he would market the event through his company, sell the rights to a network and reveal his choice on that show … He could even make it pay-per-view … I’m pretty sure they’ll pony up for $44.99 for “Decision 2010: LeBron’s Verdict.”
The story goes on to tell how Simmons pitched the idea to LeBron’s camp at the 2010 All-Star Game in Dallas, it was a hit with that inner circle, and while it stalled for a while it picked up steam during the Finals. ESPN eventually wanted in. Organizers found a charity and thought that because the money raised (ultimately $2 million) went to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America it would come off as a selfless event.
It did not.
The PR backlash only grew as LeBron and his new teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were the heart of pep rally’s in Miami — “not three, not four, not five…” — that played poorly outside South Beach.
That Heat team was the beginning of a wave of the players exercising their power and changing the NBA. Plus, that squad one a couple of rings with LeBron as the leader. Professionally, choosing Miami worked out for LeBron.
“The Decision” did not. It will be interesting to watch how that all came together.