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  • Writer's pictureKurtis Tatkenhorst

July 8- LeBron James and "The Decision"

2010- On this day in Sports History, LeBron James announced his decision to sign with the Miami Heat on a primetime show that was aired on ESPN. The show that became known as “The Decision” was a huge success for ESPN, but also a huge publicity disaster for LeBron James who looked uncomfortable throughout it. NBA fans everywhere had a huge interest in where LeBron James was going. After playing seven years with the Cleveland Cavaliers, James was a free agent and had plenty of teams that were hoping he would sign with them. James announced his decision by saying that he will be "taking his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.

LeBron James was a legend in Cleveland. He grew up in Akron, Ohio which is under an hour away from Cleveland. The Cavaliers drafted the home-town kid out of high school with the #1 pick in the 2003 draft. At the time of “The Decision”, James was only 25, but already a six time NBA All-Star, averaged nearly 30 points a game the past five seasons, and was coming off back-to-back MVP seasons. Whoever landed LeBron James was getting arguably the best player in the NBA at his prime and was immediately boosted to a NBA Title contender.

The huge interest generated an average of 9.9 million viewers throughout the show. It reached its peak with 13.1 million viewers between 9:15-9:30 which was the moment that LeBron announced he was signing with the Miami Heat. “The Decision” earned a lot of advertisement dollars which were all donated to charity, including $2.5 Million that was donated to The Boys & Girls Club. This was the part of “The Decision” that was a huge success.

The publicity disaster that came with doing the show for LeBron James was probably equally as huge. The announcement through the show that he was going to Miami rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Many said that doing the show was egotistical and selfish attention seeking. Had he re-signed with Cleveland, the show would have felt like more a celebration. However, when he announced he was going to Miami, the Cavalier fans instantly felt betrayed. Others hated that he was going to Miami to form a super-team with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The combination of where he was going and how he announced it left many people disliking LeBron and viewing him as the villain of the NBA.

The fans that instantly hated him the most were the Cavaliers fans who felt betrayed by their home-town kid. They immediately went out and started burning their LeBron James jerseys. The Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert released a letter to the fans calling LeBron’s move a cowardly betrayal and saying "I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER 'KING' WINS ONE".

LeBron went on to play four seasons where he won two NBA Championships with the Miami Heat. He spent those years working to build back his public image that was hurt from “The Decision”. After his four seasons in Miami, LeBron became a free agent and re-signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, this time he did it without a special primetime show and all the fanfare that went with it. He’d finally lead Cleveland to win their first NBA Championship in 2016 that the franchise has always desired and earned back the respect from the Cavaliers fans.

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Jerome, Gregory. “‘The Decision’ Jim Gray's Idea, Publicity Disaster for Lebron James and Agent.” Bleacher Report, Bleacher Report, 1 Oct. 2017

Rovell, Darren. “LeBron: 'The Decision' Will Generate $2.5 Million For Boys & Girls Club.” CNBC, CNBC, 8 July 2010

ABC News. “Dan Gilbert to LeBron James: Cavaliers Owner's Scathing Letter.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 9 July 2010

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