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LeBron calls the shots for special with ESPN


When LeBron James announces where he plans to play basketball next season on ESPN Thursday night, he'll do it on his terms.

As part of the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar's deal with Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN to tell the nation of his  plans, James got to handpick who would interview him and persuaded ESPN to give up its commercial inventory for the hourlong show "The Decision."

The show, which will air at 6 p.m. Pacific time, is being co-presented by the University of Phoenix and Bing, the search engine owned by Microsoft Corp. McDonald's is among the other sponsors. But ESPN won't be making any money off the event, which should draw big ratings. The presenters and sponsors are making donations on behalf of James to the Boys and Girls Club of America. ESPN is covering production costs.

ESPN reporters also won't get first crack at James. That privilege will go to veteran sports journalist Jim Gray (a former ESPN on-air personality), who was selected by James to talk with him after he unveils what team he will be on next season. Once Gray is done, Michael Wilbon, host of ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" and a Washington Post columnist, will get his shot at James.

The highly unusual arrangement, particularly the decision to cede advertising time to James and his team, has some in the journalism community shaking their heads.

“It crosses a line whether it is a donation or a direct payment to LeBron James,” said Chris Harper, an associate professor of journalism at Temple University.

ESPN defended its arrangement with James, although a senior network executive acknowledged that there were some “gray areas” to the pact.  

In a perfect world, “maybe we don’t draw it up exactly like this,” said ESPN Executive Vice President Norby Williamson, who is overseeing the telecast. However, Williamson said the network does not believe its agreement with James is tantamount to paying for an interview.

“We’re comfortable asking ourselves, 'Are we doing the right thing?,' " Williamson said.

James’ decision to take his news to ESPN was something of a slap in the face to the NBA's own cable network channel, NBA TV.

“The big loser in this is NBA TV,” said Timothy Franklin, director of the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University. “I suppose he may get a phone call from [NBA Commissioner] David Stern.”

-- Joe Flint

Photo: LeBron James. Credit: Adam Hunger / Reuters

Comments () | Archives (14)

Ay Madre de Dios, que estamos aqui con una persona que juega el deporte por dinero solamente. No tiene pasion el deporte como los Lakers y Celtics the los 80's o los Toros de Chicago con Michael Jordan. Miami con Dwayne Wade tiene la pasion pero sin ayuda de jugadores que juegan para ganar. Suerte Lebron. Que ganes todo el dinero que puedas. Porque un campionato no bas a poder ganarlo en tu tiempo. Preguntale a Charles Barkley. El si me hace sonreir.

He really does think that he's a king. All of this for someone who has not actually accomplished anything worth talking about? He's still all hype, no substance.

"The Decision" is that what they are calling this hour long poor excuse sports journalism called? I can't believe lengths that the media and LeBron are going to just to make one simple announcement. Why should anyone care for this diva is beyond me. For all of you that are follwing intently I have one question for you "Is he paying your bills?" If the answer is no then perhaps you should get your priorities straight. I for one will make sure I'm doing something constructive with my time during his "Decision."

This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. So overblown. James is great, but until he makes those around him great, who cares. I'll read about it after the fact. It's just more of the ridiculous hyping of American sport. Fantasy leagues, endless coverage of all-star sideshows, college-draft obsession. Ridiculous one and all. Oh yeah, and hotdog eating as sport. Good god, Betty, blockade the door!

this guy is appearing to be very selfish lately...between this and walking off the court a sore loser i am fidning it harder and harder to root for the guy

oh..and how many rings does he have? lol

Neither LeBron nor the Cavs made the NBA finals this year and although he's a great player, even Kobe knows it takes a TEAM to win ! That he's doing an hour-long interview as if "the world is watching" is testimony to the very ego that prevents him from participating as a TEAM.

It appears whatever the supposed "king" wants, he gets. Let everyone come crawling and begging for your services. Hold entire franchises hostage as far as free agent dealings are concerned. I'll admit, the guy is good, but he's nowhere near in the same ballpark as the real King--King Kobe, that is. I would love for Lebron to go to Miami. Lakers vs Heat in the finals, baby. That would be something.

Hey LeBron, I'm having a special next time I take a crap and airing it prime time. You can be the first to question me about it.

The arrogance of LeBron James seems to have no limits. What is even more sad, is that so many people and TV networks and hundreds of sport pundits are willing to go along with it and spend air and radio time on something so insignificant for everyone apart for mr. James himself. When is this insane adoration for sports people finally going to stop. It is preposterous to give airtime to anyone who's main goal is to just make more money and set his own rules.
And this all from the man who was not able to get his team through the playoffs several years in a row!

He's going to the Knicks. Now you don't have to watch his infomercial.

everyone knows lebron is going to end up in NY , I just hope while he's there someone snaps a pic of him on the subway and posts in on peopleofthemta.com

LeBron may have clout as a manager of a production company (his own which produces some slick and funny commercials) but to give him this kind of leeway is silly and frivolous. This unique venture is a sideshow as well as a slap in the face to the NBA, NBA TV, intelligent fans who don't give a crap where he goes, and David Stern should sanction it like he does everything else. Why not just let the facts leak out for him as they do for all other players? In the end, what difference does it make? He'll go to that team wherever it is, and lead it into the playoffs and perhaps the finals only to lose to the Lakers anyway. Ultimately, it underscores the "king" ( now with all the mama AND daddy drama) as an immature buffoon who happens to have otherworldly skills as a baller. Big deal.

Is this for real??? a live broadcast for an announcement of where an athlete is getting his million dollars contract??? all the fuss for one person, this is even more ridiculous than that Tiger Woods news conference. What happened to just a plain old press release?

This guy is such a darn drama queen. Shutup and play ball!!! #donteverdothatagain


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