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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Me-ami Two-Three: Ego James and his LeBron

My dad walked into the living room and shook his head. "Why are we watching this?" he asked in reference to "The Decision" - LeBron James' hour-long special to announce that he'll be playing in "South Beach" next season.

I told him that one day he'll thank me for making him watch this narcissistic moment in history, much like he once promised me that I would thank him one day for grounding me. Besides, the announcement was going to be made within the first 15 minutes, I told him. At least that's what we were promised.

Nearly 30 minutes later, hand-picked interviewer Jim Gray finally swallowed his own ego and used what seemed like his 27th question to ask James where he will be playing next season. Meanwhile my dad was still watching while my mom even became engulfed in the drama. An hour before she was too appalled at the Gloria James baby daddy drama to worry about where said baby was going to play basketball next season. Now? Glued - to the television and the front edge of the couch.

This is what LeBrima Donna James did to an entire nation - he concocted a perfect storm of curiosity and drama during the past two years and culminated it with an anti-climatic announcement. Donning a shirt that looked more like a picnic blanket and a smirk that looked more like a smoking gun, James broke the heart of every non-vegetative citizen in Ohio.

It is important, though, to keep the decision (not to be confused with "The Decision") in perspective. As my friend Steve wrote on my Facebook wall, the NBA is a "BUSINESS" (he used ALL CAPS). What I mean to point out is that LeBron was free to sign with whichever team he wanted next season. If it was the Los Angeles Lakers, Harlem Globetrotters or Seattle Supersonics, I would not have held it against him.

James' final six choices of teams contained two that offer him the opportunity to contend for a championship immediately - the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat. James left significantly more money behind in Cleveland to sign with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, and give himself what he believes is the best chance to win a title. He also forfeit the higher amount if money he could have earned in Cleveland, and he's taking an additional pay cut so that he, Wade and Bosh can help the Heat stay under the salary cap. (But also don't forget that there's no state income tax in Florida.)

Take away the extravagant visits - or tryouts - James hosted in Cleveland, the two-year build-up he created and ESPN ran with and the one-hour "The Decision" special, and LeBron did nothing wrong. Of course the Akron/Cleveland area fans would still be heartbroken by James' decision to leave, but it would have been strictly business. This charade we all "witnessed" since the NBA Finals ended, was not strictly anything.

If you and me both watched the same telecast Thursday night there's no way in Cleveland, I mean hell, that you can convince me LeBron isn't an attention-whore. First consider the fact that the supposed motivation for the entire creation of the broadcast (not to be confused with its purpose) was to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of America in various cities. Why, then, did we go the ENTIRE hour without a single mention of the words boy or girl? Let alone any club of which they might be a part. It was 10:05 p.m. when Stuart Scott, AKA James' biggest fan, threw it back to James in Akron for a "special" announcement.

At this point James would have needed the antidote for cancer in his back pocket to win back any non-Miami basketball fan. Instead he giggled before announcing the amount of money "The Decision" raised for various cities' Boys and Girls Clubs. (He failed to mention how much he was hoping to profit from the telecast.) It is baffling that his handlers, his Web site and even James himself, justified this entire night with the fact that the proceeds were going to charity, but that point didn't come up for 65 minutes.

So how do you, LeBron, explain the fact that you waited until the post-show interviews to take credit for the money you raised for charity? It's like a guy saying he's going to marry a woman because he loves her, and even though they could elope and be done with it, he wants to have a wedding to prove it. But instead of telling her he loves her during their vows, he waits until the reception, where, only when prompted, he confesses his love for his wife on the low.

And don't get me started on the Vitamin Water nonsense. Not only did James have his own Vitamin Water commercial air during the show, but there was a fridge full of the drinks in the background of the Gray/James interview. And don't tell me that was all ESPN because the entire time LeBron's people told the public that ESPN would allow the profits for the hour to go to charity. I'm not saying you can't have commercials, but you're telling me James had nothing to do with his Vitamin Water commercial airing during that hour? Or what about his McDonald's commercial with Dwight Howard and Larry Bird? Give me a break. (By the way, how ironic is it that the beginning of the Vitamin Water jingle goes, "I'm on the pursuit of happiness" and its a song by rapper Kid Cudi?)

As for the Vitamin Waters in the fridge, I'm sure if any of those kids in the background tried to snag one they would have been tazed by Worldwide Wes. Even worse, I bet that wasn't even real Vitamin Water. Just the bottles of urine James was preparing to pour all over Ohio. Oh the kids - right. The ones who were handpicked by someone, though it's difficult to say who. Because if they were not handpicked, then why did George Willis of the New York Post Tweet this Thursday night at 6:31 p.m.:

"They're kicking Boys and Girls off the grounds of the Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich. #LeBron" 

This shuffling of children and the lack of recognition for the Club during the actual one-hour special was just one of the many examples of how unprepared for the entire night James was, which is ironic when you consider that he had been hyping and preparing for this moment (the announcement, not necessarily "The Decision") since 2008.

What are the other examples? I'm glad you asked. From the jump, Gray asked James about his free agent experience and James said "I'm looking forward to it." Is this idiot thinking to "The Decision: The Heat is On - or Off? 2016" already?

Just minutes after James announced his choice to go to the Heat, Gray asked him, "How do you explain this to the people in Cleveland?" James responded: "It's heartfelt for me." What the HELL does that even mean? A nice prepared response would have sounded something like this:

"I know it's hard for them to understand right now, but I hope in time they realize that I chose what I believe is best for me personally in order to win a championship. The Cleveland organization and [owner] Mr. [Daniel] Gilbert have given me every opportunity and I will never forget that they helped get me to where I am now. I appreciate the way everyone in Akron and Cleveland and Cavaliers fans around the world recruited me, but in the end it wasn't about money, it was about going where I think I can win the most titles in the next five years. I'm sorry I wasn't able to bring them a championship [a la Donovan McNabb to Philadelphia fans] but I wish them the best of luck and I'll always be a Cavalier at heart."

Sure, people would have still been angry. And this telecast would have still been an ego-fest, but at least he would have shown some respect to a city that has given him a rim job since he was barely old enough to get it up. Instead he not only gave them the flaming-bag-of-s***-on-your-front-porch consolation prize of "it's heartfelt for me," but he also failed to thank them at any time during the hour-long show.

Instead he chose to repeatedly promote how much he thinks he has done for the city and the franchise. You want to know one thing he never did for same city and franchise? Bring home a ring. James also said, "I never wanted to leave Cleveland." That's like a rich parent putting a kid up for adoption and picking another one up at the same time. And just before slamming the door that parent says, "I never wanted to raise another child." Because that's exactly what LeBron did when he said, "I never wanted to leave Cleveland." At that point, if Gray way any kind of self-respecting sports journalist instead of a puppet not even worthy of a Jim Henson-produced cameo, he would have said, "Well good news LeBron, you haven't signed a contract yet and Cleveland has plenty of cap space." He could have smiled when he said it, even given a jolly little chuckle, but the point would have been made. You've been a huge douche about the entire thing for two years anyway, why not just stay in Cleveland since you claim you never wanted to leave?

James must have a map of Cleveland where Ohio resembles a giant toilet bowl because at this point he pulled his pants down to his ankles and dropped the Cosbys off in Cleveland. "I've done so many great things for the [Cavaliers]." Again, you mean like get swept in your only NBA Finals appearance? Or give up in this season's playoff series loss to the Boston Celtics?

Soon after, Gray finally asked a question with slightly more substance than a bowl of Jello (speaking of the Cosbys): "Ever want to go through this again?" James: "Uhh, it's tough." My head is going to EXPLOOOOODDDEEE! It's tough? You just led an entire city on for two years, cheated on it with five other cities for a week even though you were suddenly in an open relationship, then broke up with that city in front of the entire nation, and you know her parents and sisters were watching. That is going to be one awkward encounter when you run into that city again. Ohh, boy, I would not want to be you the day Cleveland walks by and you pretend not to notice.

That would have never been a problem if you were at least loyal enough to do this in a respectful manner and tell Cleveland you weren't staying with it as soon as you made the decision. Wait, what did you just say? "I know how loyal I've been," James said Thursday night. Oh did he? I know Michigan Wolverines fans who have been more loyal to the state of Ohio than James.

In the aforementioned post-show, which probably wasn't necessary considering the three consecutive hours of pre-show, plus all the hype leading up to it, James said something that is more scary to me than the notion of sharing a jail cell with JaMarcus Russell and two of Michael Vick's old dogs. When Scott was allowed to come up for air (yup), he and his hero got back to discussing the Boys and Girls Club. James discussed his hope for the benefits from the club down the road. "[We might] one day have another LeBron. Maybe. [Laughs]." For our sake, I hope he meant that about as much as all of the other rubbish we heard from him that night.

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