The Decision (TV special)
|Country of origin||United States of America|
|Location(s)||Greenwich, Connecticut, U.S.|
|Running time||75 minutes|
|Original airing||July 8, 2010|
The Decision was a television special in which free agent National Basketball Association (NBA) player LeBron James announced that he would be signing with the Miami Heat. It was broadcast live on ESPN on July 8, 2010. James was an unrestricted free agent after playing seven seasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he was a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star. James grew up in nearby Akron, Ohio, where he received national attention as a high school basketball star.
James was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, where he received national attention as a high school basketball star at St. Vincent – St. Mary High School. He was drafted out of high school by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers with the first overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft. He played the first seven seasons of his professional career in Cleveland, where he was a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time NBA All-Star. James became an unrestricted free-agent at 12:01 am EDT on July 1, 2010. James was courted by several teams, including the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Cavaliers.
Freelance sportscaster Jim Gray pitched the idea to James' management and ESPN for an hour-long show in which James would announce his decision. Gray once worked for ESPN, and James' management team insisted that Gray be involved in the interview. ESPN gave away the airtime, allowing James' team to sell ads in exchange for the news story.
On July 8, 2010, ESPN aired a live special named The Decision that ran 75 minutes. At 9:28 p.m EDT, James announced that he would play with the Heat in the 2010–11 season, teaming with Miami's other All-Star free agent signees Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
In this fall... this is very tough... in this fall I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat. I feel like it's going to give me the best opportunity to win and to win for multiple years, and not only just to win in the regular season or just to win five games in a row or three games in a row, I want to be able to win championships. And I feel like I can compete down there.—LeBron James
The announcement, which was not made until nearly 30 minutes into the program, was part of a conversation between James and Gray. Broadcast from the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, Connecticut, the show raised $2.5 million for the charity. The show raised an additional $3.5 million from advertisement revenue which was donated to other various charities.
Wade had informed Heat President Pat Riley that James wanted to become less of a scorer and more of a distributor, and James looked forward to no longer carrying the offense night after night as he did playing with Cleveland. Riley sold to James that "LeBron would be Magic Johnson, Dwyane Wade would be Kobe Bryant, Chris would be Kevin Garnett." Relieved of the burden of scoring, James thought he could be the first player to average a triple-double in a season since Oscar Robertson.
The Cavaliers were informed of James' decision minutes before the show began.
The television program drew high ratings, with Nielsen announcing that an average of 9.948 million people watched the show in the United States, with 13.1 million watching at the time of James' announcement. Cleveland topped all markets with a 26.0 Nielsen rating and 39 share. The show's Nielsen ratings were 6.1 in households, and 4.1 in 18-49, making it the most watched cable show of the night.
The show drew criticism for the prolonged wait until James' actual decision and the spectacle of the show itself. The phrase "taking my talents to South Beach" became a punch line for critics.
In Cleveland, fans considered James' departure a betrayal that ranks second to The Move, Art Modell's relocation of the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. Associated Press wrote that The Decision joined The Move, The Drive, The Shot, and The Fumble in "Cleveland's sports hall of shame". Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert almost immediately published an open letter to fans on the Cavs website denouncing James' decision as a "selfish", "heartless", "callous", and "cowardly betrayal", while guaranteeing that the Cavs would win an NBA title before the "self-declared former King." Gilbert's sports-memorabilia company Fathead also lowered the price of wall graphics depicting James from $99.99 to $17.41, the birth year of Benedict Arnold. William Rhoden of The New York Times defended James by stating that Gilbert's "venomous, face-saving personal attack", along with the ensuing "wrath of jersey-burning fans", only validated James’ decision to leave Cleveland. Reverend Jesse Jackson, American civil rights activist, said Gilbert's feelings "personify a slave master mentality", and he was treating James as "a runaway slave". J. A. Adande of ESPN said, however, that James chose to promote the drama of his decision in an hour-long television special instead of showing "common courtesy" to notify Cleveland and other teams of his plans. On July 12, 2010, NBA Commissioner David Stern fined Gilbert $100,000 for the letter's contents, while also criticizing the way James handled free agency. On July 14, James told J. R. Moehringer for a GQ article that there was "nothing at all" he would change about his handling of free agency.
Former NBA players criticized his decision to not stay with Cleveland and continuing to try to win a championship as "the guy". Michael Jordan stated that he would not have contacted his rivals from other teams like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to play on one team together, as "I wanted to defeat those guys." Jordan added that "... things are different [now]. I can't say that's a bad thing. It's an opportunity these kids have today." Johnson echoed Jordan's sentiments on teaming with rivals.
On September 29, 2010, asked by Soledad O'Brien of CNN if race was a factor in the fallout from The Decision, James said, "I think so, at times. There's always – you know, a race factor." James had previously stayed clear of racial issues. When an earlier racial controversy over his cover on Vogue became a national debate, James had no comment. Two African American sports columnists criticized James for injecting race into the issue—Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com said James suddenly bringing up race in this instance was "laughable", and Jason Whitlock of Foxsports.com said James' usage of the race card was "an excuse to avoid dealing with his own bad (The) Decision." Adande, also African American, had a different view, saying James "didn't claim to be a victim of racial persecution" and "caused us to examine the bias that's always lurking".
Before a game against the Nets on October 31, 2010, his first game against one of his suitors, James reflected on his free agency: “If I had to go back on it, I probably would do it a little bit different,” James said. “But I’m happy with my decision.” He declined to be more specific. James relented about the TV special before the 2011–12 season: "... if the shoe was on the other foot and I was a fan, and I was very passionate about one player, and he decided to leave, I would be upset too about the way he handled it." James won two NBA championships with Miami: the first in 2011–12 in his second season with the Heat, and again the following season in 2012–13.
The Cavaliers finished their 2010–11 season with a 19–63 record, including an NBA record 26-game losing streak. In the four NBA drafts after James' departure, the Cavaliers won the draft lottery three times to receive the first overall pick. Their 2011 first overall pick, Kyrie Irving, won the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year and 2014 All-Star Game MVP.
When James announced his return to the Cavaliers for the 2014–15 season in a Sports Illustrated essay on July 11, 2014, he alluded to the controversy surrounding the special, saying "I’m not having a press conference or a party."
- Windhorst, Brian (February 23, 2012). "Decade later, LBJ-Melo still goin' strong". ESPN.com. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
- "NBA Free Agency: Who's going where? – ESPN". ESPN. June 30, 2010. Retrieved October 30, 2010.
- "LeBron says he'll sign with Miami Heat". Msn.foxsports.com. August 9, 2010. Retrieved October 30, 2010.
- Bauder, David (July 10, 2010). "Was LeBron special ESPN's deal with devil?". sportingnews.com. Associated Press. Archived from the original on June 28, 2012.
- D'Angelo, Tom (8 July 2010). "The King of South Beach: LeBron James will Sign with Miami Heat". The Palm Beach Post.
- "LeBron James makes his pick: He's going to Miami". NBA.com (NBA Media Ventures, LLC). Associated Press. July 9, 2010. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
- Abbot, Henry (July 8, 2010). "LeBron James' decision: the transcript". ESPN. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
- "LeBron James' 'Decision' generated $6 million in ad revenue". The Plain Dealer. July 12, 2010. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
- Thomsen, Ian (July 19, 2010). "The Plot Starts Here ... Showtime Starts Here". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 23, 2011. "One advantage of Riley's intelligence gathering was his understanding—as relayed to him by Wade—that James wanted to become less of a scorer and more of a distributor, and that he looked forward to no longer carrying the offense night after night."
- Jackson, Barry (July 10, 2010). "Miami Heat's Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra react to signings". The Miami Herald. Retrieved January 23, 2011. "He said he told James that, ``LeBron would be Magic Johnson, Dwyane Wade would be Kobe Bryant, Chris would be Kevin Garnett."[dead link]
- Wojnarowski, Adrian (July 16, 2010). "Inside look at LeBron’s free-agent coup". Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010. "... the issue of James’ immaturity and downright disrespectfulness had become a consuming topic on the march to the Olympics"
- "Nearly 10 Million U.S. Viewers Watch LeBron’s ‘Decision’". nielsen.com. The Nielsen Company. July 12, 2010. Archived from the original on June 28, 2012.
- Gorman, Bill. "Thursday Cable Ratings: All LeBron, All The Time; Plus Bethenny Up, Futurama Settles & More". TVByTheNumbers. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
- Wetzel, Dan (December 21, 2010). "LeBron’s decisive backlash tops all stories". Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on June 27, 2012.
- Kerasotis, Peter (December 25, 2011). "For Miami Heat, High Hopes but Lower Volume". The New York Times. p. SP8. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
- "Cleveland Plain Dealer’s final word on LeBron James". National Post (Canada). November 9, 2010. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010.
- "Open Letter to Fans from Cavaliers Majority Owner Dan Gilbert" (Press release). Cleveland Cavaliers. July 8, 2010. Archived from the original on July 9, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
- "Fathead suggests LeBron is the new Benedict Arnold" USA Today, July 8, 2010.
- William Rhoden (July 9, 2010). "Cleveland’s Venom Validates James’s Exit". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
- Jackson, Jesse (July 11, 2010). "Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. Reacts to Dan Gilbert’s Open Letter". Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010. "His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave."
- Adande, J. A. "Gilbert's letter signals wider backlash". ESPN. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
- "Stern not a fan of 'The Decision'". Sports Illustrated. Associated Press. July 12, 2010.[dead link]
- Moehringer, J.R. (September 2010). "Into the Funhouse with King James". GQ. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010. "During that postmortem interview, when Moehringer asked James what he'd change if he had a do-over, James replied, 'Nothing at all.'"
- Jonathan Abrams; Catherine Shipp (July 10, 2010). "Criticism Grows as James Arrives in Miami". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
- "Jordan wouldn't have called Magic, Bird". ESPN. July 19, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2010.
- Rothbard, Barry (July 20, 2010). "Magic Johnson Says He Wouldn't Have Joined Bird After LeBron James's Move". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010. "From college, I was trying to figure out how to beat Larry Bird."
- "LeBron James says race a factor in reaction to Miami Heat announcement". CNN. September 30, 2010. Retrieved October 13, 2010. "Basketball star LeBron James suggested in an interview that aired Wednesday on CNN that race may have played a role in some of the negative reaction to his announcement that he would leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and join the Miami Heat."
- Adande, J. A. (October 1, 2010). "LeBron James, race and the NBA". ESPN. Retrieved October 13, 2010. "James managed to navigate the first seven years of his career without running into any racial reefs."
- Freeman, Mike (September 30, 2010). "Lambasted LeBron conveniently sees hurtful role of race". CBS Sports. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010. "He has catered to corporate America, mostly ignored issues that affect people of color, and then when so many people turned on James, he's now suddenly seeing the racial light."
- Whitlock, Jason (September 30, 2010). "Point the finger at yourself, LeBron". Fox Sports. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010. "LeBron’s enablers are providing him the racial cocoon of denial. They’re giving LeBron an excuse to avoid dealing with his own bad (The) Decision."
- Kaplan, Thomas (November 1, 2010). "James Faces Jeering, but Little Competition". The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2010. "'If I had to go back on it, I probably would do it a little bit different,' James said before the game. 'But I’m happy with my decision.' He declined to be more specific."
- Weir, Tom (December 6, 2011). "LeBron James expresses regrets about 'The Decision'". USA Today. Archived from the original on June 27, 2012.
- Beck, Howard (June 22, 2012). "LeBron James Leads Heat Past Thunder for N.B.A. Title". The New York Times. p. B11. Archived from the original on June 26, 2012.
- Abrams, Jonathan (May 18, 2011). "Cavs Get the No. 1 Pick and a Rebuilding Boost". The New York Times. p. B15. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
- McPherson, Steve (July 14, 2014). "Forever Changes: NBA Free Agency After LeBron". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 16, 2014.
- James, LeBron (July 11, 2014). "I'm Coming Home". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 12, 2014.