It says something about Americans' priorities that one evening in July, some 10 million people tuned into ESPN, dying to know what color uniform a guy would wear next year. As absurd as the spectacle seemed, it was simply the culmination of a year in which the NBA buzzed loudest off the court, as the summer free-agent frenzy sparked endless speculation about where stars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Amar'e Stoudemire would land. The homegrown Cleveland Cavalier superstar chose to announce his intention to join buddies Wade and Bosh in Miami on a nationally-televised ESPN special, pompously dubbed "The Decision." James said he was doing the cable special for charity, donating the show's advertising revenue to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
But after James dumped the Cavs on national television in front of an in-studio audience of kids from the Greenwich, CT Boys and Girls Club, with the now-infamous words "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach," his popularity took a hefty hit. The backlash was quite stunning, especially since James had made few, if any, public relations errors in his wildly successful career. He did, however, win some sympathy when Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert, within hours of James' announcement that he was signing with the Heat, released an invective-filled letter to Cavs fans (some of whom were burning LeBron jerseys in the streets), in which he called James "narcissistic" and accused him of "cowardly betrayal."
For a guy looking to win a championship or two, bailing on the Cavs was probably smart. But LeBron's "Decision" was a disaster.