Wednesday afternoon, someone posted a picture that purportedly showed moving vans outside of LeBron James’ house in Miami, and the internet went nuts. Wednesday night, Twitter exploded all over again, when Chris Sheridan reported that “sources” told him that James was definitely returning to Cleveland. We had sources letting us know that James had left a meeting with the Heat. Sources telling us that James hadn’t agreed to anything with the Heat. Sources announcing his arrival home, his intentions to discuss it with his family.
This is the logical result of James opting out of his contract with the Heat, as he did in June, and opening up a sweepstakes for his rather godly basketball services. Chris Bosh is waiting to see what LeBron does; so too, on some level, is the rest of the NBA. And so are the rest of us, based on ESPN’s constant updates, the broken refresh buttons on computers across the nation, and the multitude of sources who say they know something about something but don’t really appear to know anything.
This is the new NBA, as Grantland’s Bryan Curtis detailed this week, and it is deliberate — the offseason roster-shifting is now just as entertaining as the regular season. It is never more frenzied than when LeBron is at the center of it, but step back for a second and it’s pretty easy to see how ridiculous all of this is.
That’s why we need a different way for James to figure all of this out. And lucky for us, LeBron himself has already shown us that light.
It’s time for The Decision 2.0.
James won’t take that path for obvious reasons. The Decision, the 2010 hour-long ESPN special in which James told the world that he was taking his talents to South Beach, went horribly for him from a public relations standpoint (the basketball side of it worked out well). It took too long and wasn’t exactly great television. Some fans still hate him for it. He has said repeatedly that he has regrets about how pompous and self-important it made him look.
That’s a shame, because past the world of fans who hold on to things like this for far too long and sports business reporters who analyze every athlete’s every step for the effects on their #brand, The Decision was great for other reasons. For one, we had an event where James himself told us where he was going instead of wasting countless hours on reports that may or may not be true (and that may not tell us anything). We’re going to find out where he will play whether anyone “breaks” the news or not — he has sign a contract and put on a uniform, after all — so we might as well just hear it from the man himself.
Beyond that, there is the forgotten side of The Decision: it raised millions of dollars for charities across the country.
For as much as people say they hated The Decision, it generated huge ratings — a 7.3 Nielsen rating in the nation’s top 56 markets, according to adage.com, and a 9.6 ratings peak when he actually made his choice. That helped generate roughly $6 million in ad revenues, a large chunk of which was donated to various charity organizations.
The biggest beneficiary was the Boys & Girls Club, which received nearly $2.5 million in donations. Other charities received smaller amounts, and partnerships with Nike and Hewlett-Packard helped provide even more help. Here’s a sampling of what that money helped those organizations do, according to a 2011 breakdown from the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mark Gillispie:
A contribution of nearly $60,000 repaired a leaky roof, refurbished a dingy gymnasium and will pay for a new playground at the Mount Pleasant club on East 131st Street. And the Slavic Village club on Broadway received $70,000, which was used to install a new gym floor and purchase bleachers. The club also is waiting on delivery of 20 new computers. [...]
In addition to the $2 million cash contribution, James arranged for the donation of $500,000 in computers from Hewlett-Packard and $500,000 in gear from Nike. Fifty-nine Boys & Girls Clubs across the country are receiving help from James.
“Very few people, with one hour of their day, one hour of their life — that’s all that show was — can impact this many people,” Boys & Girls Clubs Vice President Frank Sanchez told ESPN in 2011.
So hate on James for The Decision all you want. But as much as you didn’t like it, there was a silver lining to the spectacle. Sure, James could just hand $3 million more over to charity without Decision 2.0. But that wouldn’t be as fun, and we’d still be left with this current round of rumor-mongering, source-ifying, and tail-chasing. Will that have the redeeming, lasting effects of The Decision? League sources tell me it won’t.