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How much did LeBron really have to do with “The Decision?”

May 19, 2011, 7:43 PM EDT

Image (1) lebron_decision-thumb-250x191-15508.jpg for post 6206

“The Decision,” the now-infamous telecast that featured LeBron telling the world he was “taking his talents to South Beach,” made LeBron one of the most hated athletes in America. But did LeBron really deserve the blame for what turned into an hour-long fiasco for his image? Earlier today Deadspin’s Emma Carmichael, drawing on an excerpt from an upcoming book about ESPN, pointed out that LeBron may have been nothing more than a participant in something that was engineered by others:

[Jim] Gray was using Carter for access to his client, who in turn was using Emanuel for access and logistics. Emanuel was using both to get close to a superstar athlete and, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “poke a finger in the eye of a rival agency,” Creative Artists Agency (which counts LeBron as a client.)…

Gray complained that ESPN tried to wrestle some creative control of the idea he came up with away from him, and ESPN Executive VP of content John Skipper called the deal “his fault,” saying “I put it together, and then I turned it over and let those other guys execute it.”

The entire “Decision” fiasco was the result of a ludicrous political game involving Jim Gray, ESPN, Maverick Carter (who, to be fair, LeBron hand-picked to run the business side of his life), and Ari Emmanuel. But as Carmichael astutely notes, LeBron himself seems to actually have had very little to with the decisions that led to “The Decision”:

Maybe the most remarkable part of the section is that LeBron James, the man who was thrown in the stocks for the crime of committing bad television, is hardly mentioned at all. He was a prop in a pressed shirt. Gray’s job was to smile and nod on camera as the two orchestrators stood off-stage, as ESPN began its rapid retreat from the wreckage, and as we all watched in pathetic outrage. LeBron became the villain for something that, in the book’s telling, the suits had perpetrated. It was never his Decision to make.

“The Decision” will follow LeBron around for the rest of his career, fairly or unfairly, and we don’t know how it will ultimately effect his image and legacy. All we really know is this: LeBron is seven wins away from making “The Decision” and the resulting fallout a much smaller part of his public image than it is now.

  1. ljl2 - May 19, 2011 at 8:18 PM

    A failure to say no and inevitably make the choice to participate are, in themselves, the only decisions that have any relevance to begin with. Krolik, I’m ashamed of you trying to find a scapegoat for his personal choices.

    • randommofo - May 19, 2011 at 9:00 PM

      people have been exploiting athletes forever, this is obviously another example.

      • ljl2 - May 19, 2011 at 11:28 PM

        for someone who made such a great effort to keep his name in positive lights, this is not an issue of exploitation but of arrogance and stupidity.

  2. king7key - May 19, 2011 at 8:33 PM

    This is politics at its worst. How much did the Lebron Wade (Dwayne Wife) camp you get paid to write this article. Trying hard to clean up her image huh?

  3. sgm405 - May 19, 2011 at 9:17 PM

    LeBron is 26, correct? Kids get excused for being taken advantage of…adults take responsibility.

  4. philtration - May 19, 2011 at 9:34 PM

    Really amping up the LeBron PR machine here eh?

    Some people are impressed hype and a carefully marketed image and that is how we end up with watered down crap like Justin Bieber, NSYNC, the Spice Girls and Lady GaGa.
    If you are a 12 year-old girl then you can be excused for buying into it all because you don’t know any better.
    The thing is they eventually grow out of it.

    I can see that some people do not.

    • southbeachtalent - May 20, 2011 at 9:38 AM

      Exactly like you for instance…

      You claim to hate LeBron and the Heat yet you post in every single story that has “LeBron” in it.

      You see Phil, writers are trying to get clicks on their link and you and the band of haters out there keep these stories going. Anything related to the Heat gets a rediculous amount of attention unlike your team (unless it’s the Lakers or Celtics). Hell the first round of the Eastern Conf. Finals broke a record for viewing audience!

      In other words your Bieber is LeBron. Grow out of it already.

      • philtration - May 22, 2011 at 1:45 AM

        I hope for your sake that you are 18 years old.

  5. Rollie - May 19, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    Any notion that LeBron couldn’t ultimately say no, and just reveal his decision humbly, should immediately be dismissed.

  6. goforthanddie - May 19, 2011 at 11:37 PM

    1-He could’ve said NO.
    2-This is just now coming out? Little late for CYA activity, dontcha think?

  7. downtowndanny - May 20, 2011 at 1:39 AM

    who cares?

  8. dgutley - May 20, 2011 at 4:49 AM

    The bottom line is that he still stuck a stick in the eye of all of those yound NE Ohio kids that worshipped and believed in him. He taught those young kids what narcissism is really about. Disloyalty should be his tattoo. He is hated here more than Art Modell –and that’s tough to be.

    • ljl2 - May 20, 2011 at 11:53 AM

      Uh, slow down that role. I can’t stand LeBron for what he did to his hometown team he claimed he was determined to bring a championship and nothing else would suffice. HOWEVER to say he is more hated than Art Modell is ridiculous and would only be the views of anyone born in the 90s who did not experience the Browns move and due to the Browns troubles since coming back never quite became fans of the new team.

      • dgutley - May 22, 2011 at 8:54 AM

        Model is hated but Lebron is more so. Hard to believe but true.

  9. davidly - May 20, 2011 at 5:41 AM

    First the ESPN “D-Wade all but bought a house in Wilmette” tale, and now this? A conspiracy theorist would surmise that Larry O’Brien is tied up in Miami’s basement.

  10. dirtybird2020 - May 20, 2011 at 6:19 AM

    Reguardless lebron is still a bum for joining wade, nothing will ever change that, 6 rings couldnt change that( probly wont even see one), most triple doubles wont change that, it comes down to a guy who was praised as the best soldout! Like jordan said he wouldve never called johnson, and bird up and say lets join a team, he ha a better team in cleaveland than he has now, they wouldve beat boston and miami and be competing against the bulls but he soldout!botton line i will never see lebron as a great!

    • blueintown - May 20, 2011 at 7:11 AM

      Is it still selling out if you take less money?

      • dgutley - May 20, 2011 at 9:08 AM

        Yes.

    • southbeachtalent - May 20, 2011 at 9:30 AM

      So Shaq is a sell out? Took the Magic to the Finals then left for the Lakers and won over there. Actually the lakers have been doing that for decades.

      Better team in Cleveland?? Forget it you are clearly insane.

      • ljl2 - May 20, 2011 at 11:55 AM

        His team he had last year before its break-up when LeBron left. Clearly you don’t understand what the term “team” means or you just like to forget facts about everything but this year. 2 60 win seasons in a row with a deep bench would certify a better team.

  11. olsherm - May 20, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    everybody was all on Lebron until he went to the heat. You’ll need to stop acting like little 3 years-old

  12. olsherm - May 20, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    dirtybird2020 you are trying to hard

  13. savocabol1 - May 20, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    Almost an entire year later and you guys are still posting articles about the decision? give is a freakin rest already.

  14. philtration - May 20, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    Can LeBron cure cancer with his singing voice?
    Can his tears to used to fuel your car and get 89 miles per gallon?
    Will LeBron part Lake Erie and then pick up the fish laying around to feed the vanishing polar bears?
    Can LeBron’s nose hairs be used as guitar stings and sound like Jimi Hendrix?

    How about can LeBron win one NBA championship before you anoint him as the jelly on the league’s PB&J sandwich.

  15. dgutley - May 20, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    This is a guy that marketed himself as “one of us” – loyal etc. All the little kids wore his stuff. He quit in the playoffs by feigning an injury. The, he has the gall to hold court so the suitors can come kiss his behind while intending all along to go be second fiddle. He then waits until the CAVS are screwed to announce and then announces in the most narcissistic and humiliating way possible. After all that, he says things like “was never my team” “I spoiled them”. The little kids loved him. He sure taught them a sobering lesson on how not to be. If he had come out and said: cleveland, I wanna play with my buds — we would’ve missed him but not hated him. He did this in the way calculated to inflict the most humiliation on NE Ohio possible. And – we should “get over it”?

    • savocabol1 - May 20, 2011 at 10:30 AM

      The funny thing is we are over it. Anyone from Cleveland knows this. When sites like this keep writing about “the decision” over and over it makes everyone not from the area think we are still holding a grudge. Will we forever hate him…of course. Do we sit up at night plotting a way to get back at him for embarrassing us…hell no (but the media would make everyone else think otherwise). I am so sick of this site, ESPN, Yahoo, ect., posting stories about this kind of crap.

    • southbeachtalent - May 20, 2011 at 10:47 AM

      You are aware he was a free agent, and we are in a free country. If you were offered a better job wouldn’t you leave? Or would you stay and be a loyal employee? He played 7 years in Cleveland, had no help. The Cavs preach about loyalty yet cut Ilgaskus after he played his whole career their. Gilbert sure proved to be a horrible owner and business man by his rediculous claims and statements. It’s nothing but Hypocracy and hate. He decided to go to a better team for way less money for a chance at a championship. Makes perfect sense to me.

      If you are upset at how he went about it I can understand that. I too was a little suprised he decided to go about it the way he did. But we all make mistakes and he has apologized. Unless you have a flux capacitor and a Delorean there’s really nothing that can be done about it. But to say that he purposely wanted to hurt Ohio and his followers is rediculous. What would he possibly get from that? How would he benefit from purposely sabotoging himself? Just doesn’t make sense.

      In my opinion he should stop apologizing about it and move on. There are bigger problems in the world and in cleveland then the “decision”.

      • ljl2 - May 20, 2011 at 12:03 PM

        Let’s clear one thing up, the Cavs never cut Z. They know the rules of the CBA and traded him with the confidence that Washington would cut him so they could re-sign him (which they did). Please, don’t make things up in your argument.

        Gilbert dropped tons of money into the Cavs to improve and do what LeBron asked of him, how is that a horrible owner?

        And it doesn’t make sense, which is why he’s a narcissist. He didn’t consider any of the ramifications, especially how it would affect his precious image.

        Stop apologizing? When did he apologize? The backhanded statement last week where he said the word “sorry” then continued to rip everything about his teammates who were good enough for him to thank for helping him get 2 MVPs and to put them in the place where if LeBron didn’t choke in the playoffs they would have been in good shape? Was it Mo Williams who single-handedly won that first game against the Celtics while LeBron stood in a corner? Was it his teammates who eventually gave up because their leader showed no heart in a winnable game later in the series?

        While I don’t think he should apologize (because it wouldn’t be genuine), I do think he needs to stop talking about the Cavs. He left, quit talking about how the lottery went or how Irving would be good here. Don’t use the Cavs as a storyline in your vindication for the Celtics when the 2007 Cavs team could have beaten this year’s Celtics let-alone the last 2 years.

        As long as he finds reasons to keep talking about the Cavs, don’t expect Cavs fans to quit “hating” on him for leaving.

      • savocabol1 - May 20, 2011 at 1:17 PM

        Southbeach…..lebron’s loyalty is to money and rings, not to the things that he would constantly preach to kids, his teammates, the media, etc. on a daily basis about. ljl2 hit it dead on the money, the Cavs literally did everything Lebron asked them to do. The fact you don’t see that is obvious you didn’t follow Lebron throughout his 7 years while he was in Cleveland.

        You have a tone that is seeminly blaming the Cavs and fans for whatever nastyness is coming out. Well, your boy Lebron, rightfully so, needs to shoulder the blame. Do you think Shaq, Melo, Deron Williams, Garnett, Ray Allen, etc constantly talk about the old teams they were on? If you can answer a yes to that then please stop posting on here because you are not a follower of this sport. Here is the facts, the Cavs are NEVER asked about Lebron therefore never speak about him. Lebron is ALWAYS asked about the Cavs and expands upon the questions, feeding into the media’s hunger to drum up a story. Heat fans will say it isn’t his fault he is asked those questions. Right I get it, but Lebron could easily say no comment, but he never does/will.

        And finally, we aren’t saying he set out to purposely spurn the team that he called “home” by going on national tv to tell the world that you are leaving town. Clevelanders are saying that anyone in their right mind would realize that is nothing but bad press, not to mention the fact that is one of the most classless acts a prominent sports figure can do. Hindsight is 20/20. But you don’t need hindsight to realize that was the wrong call.

      • dgutley - May 21, 2011 at 7:54 AM

        If he had come out and said: cleveland, I wanna play with my buds — we would’ve missed him but not hated him. He did this in the way calculated to inflict the most humiliation on NE Ohio possible. And – we should “get over it”? There’s no other explanation other than The Decision was calculated to humiliate and inflict the most pain on NE Ohio. You know, the young kids that idolized him.

  16. toosano - May 20, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    Jim Gray is the biggest piece of crap reporter in history. He’d sell his grandmother for a story.
    What he did to Pete Rose, he deserved to have his ass kicked. Figures he’d be in on this somehow.

  17. granadafan - May 20, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    First, this was terrible journalism writing. When you reference names, you have an obligation to the reader to state their first name and who they are. For example, who the hell is “Carter”? No where in the article does it state who this guy is. Don’t just link another article most readers may or may not want to click on. SUMMARIZE it.

    Second, the whole fiasco of “the Decision” IS LeBron’s fault. It wasn’t just the day of the decision, it was the entire process where he made teams come to him rather than him visiting facilities. What a diva. Then he tried to spin the televised event by having kids in the background (uh, why?) as if to dare anyone to criticize him with kids! He could have made that donation to the boys and girls club without the “Look at Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” televised event. Yes, LeDiva and ESPN deserve the vast criticism.

  18. blueintown - May 20, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    This all needs to stop. A grown man made a (the) decision, and that is that. No doubt it was handled poorly, but it is what it is. He had the opportunity to take the money and keep banging his head against a wall with Antwan Jamison and Mo Williams by his side, or take a pay cut and move to South Beach with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Honestly, can you blame him? He was offered a job, and he accepted. People do it every single day. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s insulting, but it is the nature of the universe. I was pissed when it happened too, but only because I wanted him in Chicago. This is reality. Stuff happens.

  19. bcb1999 - May 20, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    In the end, it was LeBron’s go ahead to do it…he could have said “forget about it” at any time. This is like blaming an agent for a holdout. At any time, the player can say “let’s do this/not do this”. It might not have been all LeBron, but let’s not pretend he didn’t play a big part in it.

  20. thetooloftools - May 20, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    LeBron did what he did to do as much damage as possible to the Cleveland Cavs. He waited till all the big free agents were signed and then ran smack about how he was not from Cleveland and Cleveland kids made fun of Akron… and bla bla bla. LeBron was the bottom line on all this and if he wasn’t then he’s a bigger idiot then i thought. Too late LeBron.
    Apology not accepted.
    Your just shunning responsibility like you do for everything else you loser.

  21. coltsfanindc - May 20, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    lol. Im a Heat fan and even I think this article is bogus. While i dont get as emotional and upset about a grown man deciding where he wants to work and how he went about doing it as some do, LeBron, u and your camp HAVE to get past this. u did it. Majority of ppl didnt like it and now hate u for it, oh well. live with it and move on. Besides, most of the ppl who hate u cheer Kobe(accused of rape), Ray Lewis(assist in murder, alledgedly), Leonard Little(who KILLED a woman from driving drunk), and Brett Favre(naked pic to a female wearing Crocs. lmfao!!!!). So do urself a favor and stay out of “real” trouble and live your life. You cant make the world like or love you!!

    PS
    Go Heat!!!

  22. mogogo1 - May 20, 2011 at 11:10 PM

    Powers That Be: “So, LeBron, we’ve decided you’re going to wait til the last possible second and totally screw over your hometown team and fans, thus guaranteeing they’ll hate you forever. Oh, and you’ll be in Miami next year, in case you wondered.”
    LeBron: “Whatever you say, guys. And tell me how great I am, again.”

  23. mzwildnwet82 - May 21, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    he make bad decision but we have to forgive him even though he knew everyone will hate him forever, his apologize will not enough for his hometown and fans that’s really shame to see how it goin down.. wish he make a better choice..

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