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One Year Later: The Daily Looks Back At "The Decision"
Published July 7, 2011
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One year ago tomorrow, LeBron James announced live on ESPN that he was taking his talents to South Beach to sign with the Heat. “The Decision” became a must-see television event, and the reverberations from both the announcement and James’ move from Cleveland to Miami were felt throughout sports business the last 12 months. THE DAILY takes a look back at media reaction to -- and fallout from -- "The Decision.”
July 9, 2010:
- James Grows Ego, Not Brand, With ESPN Special
James’ decision to announce his free agency choice in a national TV special was called “clumsy, ill-conceived and unnecessary.” James received a PR hit he had “never experienced in his seven years in the NBA,” and as "TV -- and a reflection on James -- it was a disaster.” Read the full story.
- U. Of Phoenix, Bing Score With "The Decision"
Microsoft’s Bing and the Univ. of Phoenix were the “biggest beneficiaries" from ESPN's coverage of James’ announcement. Both were “cited by name several times by an announcer as their logos appeared onscreen.” The four Bing spots "were the most for any advertiser," while Vitaminwater aired three and McDonald's two. Read the full story.
- Did ESPN Harm Journalistic Reputation With LeBron Special?
ESPN cut to James' interview with Jim Gray 22 minutes into “The Decision,” later than network execs had promised, and the result was an “hour-long, primetime TV special that was anticlimactic at best.” Critics came down hard on ESPN for “bloated, uncomfortable coverage of James' announcement.” Read the full story.
- Jim Gray Slammed For ESPN's LeBron Special
Jim Gray "shamed himself and every professional interviewer on the planet" with his handling of James' long-awaited free agency announcement. Gray asked "five solid minutes worth of such blatantly time-killing" questions as "How's your summer?" "When did you decide?" and "Are you still a nail biter?" Read the full story.
- Heat Poised For Financial Windfall
Following James’ decision to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach, the Heat were expecting "revenue boosts in nearly every category -- tickets, suites, premium seat sales and sponsorships, including arena signage." Read the full story.
- Heat Become Center Of Basketball World
Thanks to the new Big Three, AmericanAirlines Arena was expected to “be packed every night.” James’ announcement “marks the start of an irrevocable shift in the balance of power in the NBA, while fulfilling Heat president Pat Riley's pursuit of a potential dynasty.” Read the full story.
- Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert Blasts James
Moments after James’ decision -- which Gilbert said he was not privy to ahead of time -- the Cavs owner penned a passionate open letter criticizing James and “The Decision.” Gilbert “probably didn't regret writing any of it,” but it was “new territory for an owner.” Read the full story.
- Jim Gray Slammed For ESPN's LeBron Special
July 12, 2010:
- Nike Yanks Mural As Cleveland Rids Itself Of All Things LeBron
City of Cleveland employees "began dismantling the 10-story-tall" Nike mural in downtown featuring James, which had “dominated the city's skyline for years." In addition, the Cavs Team Shop at Quicken Loans Arena "yanked all LeBron merchandise." The Dan Gilbert-owned Fathead marked down its poster of the two-time MVP in a Cavaliers jersey from $99.99 to $17.41, a reference to infamous traitor Benedict Arnold being born in 1741. Read the full story.
- WME's Ari Emanuel Says "The Decision" Advances Ad-Funded Shows
Emanuel said that the ESPN special he helped arrange "forwarded the paradigm for advertiser-funded programming.” All advertisers during “The Decision,” with the exception of the Univ. of Phoenix, already had endorsement deals with James. The program in total generated $6M in ad revenue. Read the full story.
- ESPN Sees Nearly 10 Million Viewers For LeBron's "Decision"
In addition to being the most-viewed non-NFL program on ESPN this year, the broadcast at the time was the third-most viewed telecast on all of cable for the calendar year. The special was the eighth highest-rated non-NFL telecast on ESPN since '90. Read the full story.
- Heat Start Waiting List For Tix, See Massive Pre-Orders For Merch
The Heat started a waiting list for “fans still hoping to score season tickets, after halting sales Thursday.” Additionally, the team "raised prices on any future season tickets sales and plans to vary the cost of individual tickets depending on the game." Pre-orders for jerseys and other gear at Heat.com overnight Thursday following James' decision "were equivalent to a typical two months of sales.” Read the full story.
- Will Dan Gilbert's Anti-LeBron Letter Adversely Affect The Cavs?
Gilbert "knew exactly what Cavaliers fans wanted to hear" last Thursday, and his letter criticizing James "might be remembered as the most scathing rip job by an owner in the history of professional sports.” But the “biggest fear” was how Gilbert's words would play with free agents as the Cavs began the post-LeBron era. Read the full story.
July 13, 2010:
- NBA Fines Dan Gilbert $100,000 For Letter About LeBron James
NBA Commissioner David Stern fined the Cavaliers Owner $100,000 for his comments about James, saying that Gilbert "went overboard in his criticism.” Stern added, “The remarks by Dan Gilbert, catalyzed as they may have been by a hurt with respect ... were ill-advised and imprudent." Read the full story.
LOOKING BACK AT THE WEEK THAT WAS: SI.com spoke to "four key behind-the-scenes operatives" about their respective roles in "The Decision." Former William Morris Endeavor Partner Mark Dowley: "Ari Emanuel called me and said, 'What do you think of the idea of doing the show?' And I really liked it. I like the whole notion of the emancipation of talent. No one could have guessed the level of interest this would get. We had never seen anything like that." Connecticut state Sen. Scott Frantz, who provided the connection to host "The Decision" at the Boys & Girls Club in Greenwich, said, "Mark didn’t put duct tape over my mouth or anything like that, but the strong hint was that, 'Let’s get this organized and not spill the beans.' I didn’t even tell my family." CitationAir CEO Steve O'Neill, whose private jet company flew James to Greenwich, said, "One plan involved Miami. Another involved canceling the flight if he went with New York and would celebrate there. We needed to make sure we had enough fuel to fly to California if he chose Los Angeles, and a crew that could fly at least six hours. ... I was told shortly before the show started that it was going to be Miami. I was probably the only person at CitationAir who knew what was going on every step of the way." In retrospect, Dowley said, "We came came up with an experiment. I’m fond of experimenting, and I’m proud of doing something different" (SI.com, 7/1).