Because what the world needs now is another piece on the internet about Lebron James. But it's kinda my thing. Assorted thoughts on the whole thing:
- Obligatory thought on LeBron's decision. I have no problem with him choosing to go to Miami, to play with friends of his in a warm, fun environment. But, as many others have said, it's the way LeBron handled the whole process. Going on live TV to announce he's leaving Cleveland (a city that rivals Buffalo for sports heartbreak) was pretty callous. Stringing along other cities in a made-for-the-internet tour was fairly disrespectful and egotistical. Put it this way - had he made this decision and said "I want to win. I don't need it to be my team to win, I just want to win, and going to Miami gives me a chance to be a part of a team, something bigger than myself, and win a championship," he would have been applauded. Now? He's just another selfish athlete.
- ESPN is taking its hits, rightfully so, for the special and its handling of the story. CNBC broke news this afternoon that Jim Gray, who did last night's interview, was paid by LeBron's people, which is pretty much the definition of conflict of interest. But here's the thing ... ESPN sold its soul years ago. Remember, it has broadcast deals with the three major team sports. It's in ESPN's financial interest to promote the NBA, NFL and MLB. There's inherent conflict there.
- Another ESPN thought - the network is the agenda setter for sports. I don't know if that's been studied academically, but it's anecdotally accepted. If ESPN says its a story, it's a story. And of course they over-hyped the LeBron story. The same way every network that carries the Super Bowl over-hypes that. But it's easy to forget that for all the hype and conflicts and promotion, ESPN still does some damn fine journalism. Read Wright Thompson's long-form stuff on the web site. It's staggeringly good.
- One of the big issues that I found myself thinking about during this story was the use of anonymous sources. They were, of course, all over the place. Which led to confusion, as reporters were writing and twittering seemingly contradictory stories "according to sources." The use anonymous sources is a tricky subject. Sometimes, they are necessary. I used them myself in my career, breaking stories I wouldn't have been able to otherwise without. But it was about an event that had already happened (instead of a pending decision), and I double-checked what they said with other sources. The thing with the LeBron story is that no one knew for sure what was going to happen (except maybe Stephen A. Smith, but there's some question of when this decision was really made). So the source stories were "Sources say LeBron is leaning toward Cleveland ... sources indicate that LeBron may be leaving for Miami." There were so many qualifiers in these stories, that I question their usefulness. I feel bad, in a way, for the reporters. They were under enormous pressure to break this story, to report something. So "leaning toward," rather than the waffle that it is, became worthy of a headline. The lesson here isn't that anonymous sources are bad and shouldn't be used. Blanket rules almost never work in journalism. It's that, as a reporter, just because a connected source tells you something doesn't mean it's so. And you don't have to print everything a source tells you. God gave you news judgment and a bullshit detector, use it.
- Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is getting a lot of praise around the internet for his letter blasting LeBron. Two thoughts: a. Purple comic sans? Is he 11? b. Adrian Wojnarowski (the best writer in this whole story) has it right - Gilbert enabled LeBron's ego for seven years and made millions and millions of dollars off of him. It's more than a little disingenuous of him to rip LeBron out the door.
What did everyone else think of this entire story?