SBD/July 10, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Stu Jackson Calls LeBron's "Decision" In '10 A "Watershed Moment" For The NBA

ESPN's "The Decision" is one of the net's highest-rated programs
LeBron James is dominating the sports news cycle as he continues to weigh his options in free agency, similar to the path he went down four years ago before announcing his intent to leave the Cavaliers and sign with the Heat in the made-for-TV special "The Decision." The hour-long ESPN show has been widely panned in the subsequent years, but former NBA exec Stu Jackson called the broadcast a "watershed moment" for the league. Jackson, who is now an analyst on NBA TV, was serving as NBA Exec VP/Basketball Operations in '10 when James readied to make his announcement. Jackson said, "Prior to the television show, 'The Decision,' the league was very concerned at that time both for LeBron’s image and his brand -- and also their television partner (ESPN) and what it would mean to them after airing this type of decision. The league felt it was a real negative." However, the program still ranks as one of ESPN's most-viewed programs. Jackson: "Since that day in terms of ratings, fan interest, especially of the casual fan, there has been no turning back. In retrospect, it actually was a positive for the league overall, albeit that it was a negative for the individual player and the television partner at the time” (“NBA GameTime,” NBA TV, 7/8).

OFF-COURT DRAMA TRUMPS GAMES: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ben Cohen reports public interest in James is "highest at times when he isn't actually playing basketball." Since January '04, when James was in the middle of his rookie season, Google Trends show the "public's obsessions with James peaked during the period of 'The Decision.'" With James again going through the free agency process, that "fever is spiking again -- and it's higher than it is in any given week of the NBA's regular season" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/10).
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