It was supposed to run an hour. It went over by 13 minutes. Every single second of the 73 minutes was excruciating to watch. I don’t want to make this totally negative so let me at least start with a positive. The commercials were done well. But after that, Stuart Scott as host was practically genuflecting calling LeBron James, “The King” with every opportunity. Despite a promise that James would make his announcement in the first 15 minutes of the program, the interview did not start until 9:23 p.m. after two segments with Scott, Michael Wilbon, Chris Broussard and Jon Barry. Hand picked interviewer Jim Gray wiggled and waffled before finally asking the question that everyone wanted to hear, “Where are you going to play?”
While James appeared nervous at the beginning of the show and during the interview, Gray was totally shaky asking questions about nailbiting, sleeping and how his mother felt before finally asking the big one.
Granted, Jim Gray had a conflict of interest, helping to broker the deal, asking the LeBron James camp for the first interview and then having his request granted. It was ironic to see Gray on the network that had let him go several years previous. From this performance, I don’t see ESPN hiring him back. While many people still don’t forgive Gray for his ambush interview of Pete Rose at the 1999 World Series, Gray showed that he’s a lightweight.
As for Stuart Scott, he’s a lightweight and then some. He constantly referred to James as “The King”. Even tried to show that he’s buddy-buddy with James during a short segment and then tossed it so LeBron could announce that he was donating the proceeds from the commercial time from “The Decision” to the Boys and Girls Clubs.
The atmosphere in the Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich, CT was very subdued. There was no cheering by the live audience when James announced that he was going to the Heat.
Michael Wilbon did get a longer interview and asked some harder questions. However, neither Gray, Wilbon nor Scott asked why James chose to do the interview from Greenwich nor did we receive an explanation.
People can say ESPN’s lost some integrity with “The Decision”, but it’s been losing it ever since it chose to put a game show on SportsCenter and give us sponsored segments like “Budweiser Hot Seat”. Tonight, ESPN chose to give feed the ego of an athlete who’s been nurtured on the Alleged Worldwide Leader throughout his life. Not only was the show a giant train wreck, but came off as if the network was catering to the whim of a spoiled athlete.
The network can say it was a big news story and other TV entities would have jumped at the chance to carry it. Probably so, but with ESPN being the biggest sports television network, it not only allowed the James camp to set the rules, but it also set the bar for other athletes to make similar announcements. Can Brett Favre be far behind?
Yes, we watched, but we also felt dirty.
Ken Schott of the Schenectady Gazette called “The Decision” shameful.
Richard Sandomir of the New York Times brutalized ESPN for the entire process.
I’m sure there will be more reaction on Friday. You’ll be sure to see them in the megalinks tomorrow.