The Decision (TV program)

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The Decision
Presented byStuart Scott, Michael Wilbon, Jon Barry, Chris Broussard, Jim Gray[1][2][3]
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Production locationsGreenwich, Connecticut, U.S. (Interview segments) Bristol, Connecticut, U.S. (In-studio segments)[4]
Running time75 minutes
Original release
ReleaseJuly 8, 2010 (2010-07-08)

The Decision was a 2010 television special on ESPN in which National Basketball Association (NBA) player LeBron James announced which team he would join for the 2010–11 season. James was an unrestricted free agent after playing his first seven NBA seasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers; he was a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star. He grew up in nearby Akron, Ohio, where he received national attention as a high school basketball star. During the special, James revealed that he would be signing with the Miami Heat.


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.[5] 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 though he had yet to win an NBA championship with the Cavaliers with him only making the NBA finals once in 2007 where the Cavaliers were swept by the Spurs and in the previous season the Cavaliers were eliminated by the Celtics in the 2nd round of the 2010 NBA playoffs in a 6 game series. James became an unrestricted free-agent at 12:01 am EDT (UTC-4) on July 1, 2010.[6] He was courted by several teams, including the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Cavaliers.[7]

The idea for the show originally came from Bill Simmons's mailbag column in November 2009 on ESPN, which published reader Drew Wagner's question, "What if LeBron announces he will pick his 2010-11 team live on ABC on a certain date for a show called 'LeBron's Choice?'"[8] Wagner's idea was inspired by the trend of high school seniors being recruited announcing their college choice in a news conference.[8] During NBA All-Star Weekend in 2010, Simmons pitched the idea to James's business partner, Maverick Carter; James's then-agent, Leon Rose; and James's advisor, William Wesley.[8][9] After James and the Cavaliers lost to the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs in May, Simmons thought there was no way for the idea to proceed, and he was no longer involved.[8]

During halftime of Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Los Angeles, Carter ran into freelance sportscaster Jim Gray and media agent Ari Emanuel, when Gray pitched the announcement show to Carter and Emanuel.[8][9][10] Carter convinced James to do the show, and Emanuel pitched the idea to then-ESPN president John Skipper.[8][9] Gray's idea was for an hour-long show in which James would announce his decision. Gray once worked for ESPN, and James' management team insisted that he be involved in the interview. ESPN gave away the airtime as barter syndication, allowing James' team to sell ads in exchange for the news story.[10] NBA commissioner David Stern, believing that ESPN was giving too much control to James, tried to get the event cancelled.[11]

Before the special aired Chris Broussard, who was one of the show's presenters, reported that James would join the Heat based on statements he had heard from multiple sources.[12]


On July 8, 2010, ESPN aired a live special named The Decision that ran 75 minutes with commercials.[10][13] At 9:28 p.m EDT, James announced that he would play with Miami in the 2010–11 season, teaming with the Heat's other All-Star free agent signees Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (who had joined from the Toronto Raptors).[14]

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.[13][15]

— LeBron James

The announcement, which was not made until nearly 30 minutes into the program, was part of a conversation between James and Gray.[10][15] Broadcast from the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, Connecticut, the show raised $2.5 million for the charity.[16] The show raised an additional $3.5 million from advertisement revenue which was donated to other various charities.[16]

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.[17] 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.[17][18]

The Cavaliers were informed of James' decision minutes before the show began.[19]

Among those in attendance for James' decision were Kanye West and a then 13-year-old Donovan Mitchell.[20]

Critical reception[edit]

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.[10][21] 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.[22]

The show drew criticism for the prolonged wait until James' actual decision which was mostly filled in with panel discussions.[23] (In a call with Media critics the day before the special aired ESPN said the decision would have actually occurred in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the program.)[24][25] Along with the spectacle of the show itself,[10] the phrase "taking my talents to South Beach" became a punch line for critics.[26][27]

In Cleveland, fans considered James' departure a betrayal that ranks second to The Move, Art Modell's relocation of the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore.[28] Associated Press wrote that The Decision joined The Move, The Drive, The Shot, and The Fumble in "Cleveland's sports hall of shame".[14] Almost immediately, Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert wrote an open letter to fans published in Comic Sans typeface 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".[29][30][31] 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.[32] 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.[33] Jesse Jackson, an American civil rights activist, said Gilbert's feelings "personify a slave master mentality", and he was treating James as "a runaway slave".[34] Jackson added, "This is an owner employee relationship between business partners and LeBron honored his contract.[35] 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.[36] On July 12, 2010, Stern fined Gilbert $100,000 for the letter's contents, while also criticizing the way James handled free agency.[37] 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.[38]

Former NBA players criticized his decision to not stay with Cleveland and continuing to try to win a championship as "the guy".[39] 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".[40] Johnson echoed Jordan's sentiments on teaming with rivals.[41]

On September 29, 2010, when 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".[42] James had previously stayed clear of racial issues.[43][44] When an earlier racial controversy over his cover on Vogue became a national debate, James had no comment.[44] Two African American sports columnists criticized James for injecting race into the issue—Mike Freeman of said James suddenly bringing up race in this instance was "laughable",[44] and Jason Whitlock of said James' usage of the race card was "an excuse to avoid dealing with his own bad Decision".[45] 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".[43]


James made 4 straight NBA Finals appearances and won two NBA championships with the Miami Heat.

Although other NBA superteams existed before 2010, the Heat with James was the first that players created.[46] 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.[47] Following The Decision, Forbes listed him as one of the world's most disliked athletes.[48] 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."[49] James won two NBA championships with Miami: the first in 2011–12 in his second season with the Heat,[50] and again the following season in 2012–13. By 2013, his image had mostly recovered and he was reported by ESPN as the most popular player in the NBA for the second time in his career.[51]

The Cavaliers finished their 2010–11 season with a 19–63 record, including a then-NBA record 26-game losing streak.[52] In the four NBA drafts after James' departure, the Cavaliers won the draft lottery three times to receive the first overall pick.[53] Their 2011 first overall pick, Kyrie Irving, was named the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year, and was also the MVP of both the All-Star Game and the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2014.

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."[54] He led Cleveland to an NBA championship in 2015–16, when the Cavaliers became the first team ever to rally from a 3–1 deficit to win an NBA Finals. It was the city's first major professional sports title in 52 years.[55]

A poll by Davie-Brown Index after the special found that James's overall appeal dropped 11 percent, while his endorsement appeal dropped 2 percent, and trust in James dropped 3 percent.[56] Another ESPN/ Seton Hall poll that was taken in October 2010 found that 51.6% of basketball fans said that James move to Miami didn't impact how they viewed him, with 32% of white fans and 65% of Black fans viewing James favorably.[57]

In 2020, ESPN aired a documentary episode about the special titled "Backstory: The Decision"[58][59]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NBA Read & React: LeBron James' decision puts ball in a Portland guy's hands; plus quick reaction from Cleveland, Miami". The Oregonian. July 8, 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  2. ^ Deitsch, Richard (July 9, 2010). "LeBron circus on ESPN draws its fair share of critics". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  3. ^ Helin, Kurt (July 7, 2010). "Everything you wanted to know about "The Decision" but were afraid to ask". Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  4. ^ Ohlmeyer, Don (July 21, 2010). "The 'Decision' dilemma". Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  5. ^ Windhorst, Brian (February 23, 2012). "Decade later, LBJ-Melo still goin' strong". Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  6. ^ "Q&A: Where will top free agents land?". ESPN. June 30, 2010. Retrieved October 30, 2010.
  7. ^ "LeBron says he'll sign with Miami Heat". August 9, 2010. Retrieved October 30, 2010.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Van Natta, Dan Jr. (June 28, 2020). "ESPN show confirms The Decision was fan's idea, not LeBron James'". Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c Chiang, Anthony (June 24, 2020). "ESPN docuseries reveals new details from LeBron James' 'The Decision' 10 years later". Miami Herald. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Bauder, David (July 10, 2010). "Was LeBron special ESPN's deal with devil?". Associated Press. Archived from the original on May 13, 2014.
  11. ^ Fedor, Chris (June 24, 2020). "LeBron James, 'The Decision' and a decade of hindsight: ESPN docuseries reveals new details on LeBron's legacy-impacting night". Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  12. ^ "The 'Decision' dilemma". July 21, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2022.
  13. ^ a b D'Angelo, Tom (July 8, 2010). "The King of South Beach: LeBron James will Sign with Miami Heat". The Palm Beach Post. Archived from the original on July 11, 2010.
  14. ^ a b "LeBron James makes his pick: He's going to Miami". NBA Media Ventures, LLC. Associated Press. July 9, 2010. Archived from the original on May 14, 2012. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
  15. ^ a b Abbot, Henry (July 8, 2010). "LeBron James' decision: the transcript". ESPN. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
  16. ^ a b "LeBron James' 'Decision' generated $6 million in ad revenue". The Plain Dealer. July 12, 2010. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
  17. ^ a b 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.
  18. ^ 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]
  19. ^ Wojnarowski, Adrian (July 16, 2010). "Inside look at LeBron's free-agent coup". Archived from the original on September 20, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010. ... the issue of James' immaturity and downright disrespectfulness had become a consuming topic on the march to the Olympics
  20. ^ Base, Secret. ""The Decision" deserves a deep remind". YouTube. Secret Base. Retrieved August 3, 2023.
  21. ^ "Nearly 10 Million U.S. Viewers Watch LeBron's 'Decision'". The Nielsen Company. July 12, 2010. Archived from the original on September 13, 2012. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
  22. ^ Gorman, Bill. "Thursday Cable Ratings: All LeBron, All The Time; Plus Bethenny Up, Futurama Settles & More". TVByTheNumbers. Archived from the original on September 9, 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2012.
  23. ^ Norman, Justin. "LeBron James and ESPN Should Be Ashamed by "The Decision" Coverage". Bleacher Report. Retrieved May 29, 2022.
  24. ^ "The 'Decision' dilemma". July 21, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2022.
  25. ^ Sandomir, Richard (July 9, 2010). "ESPN Gets Choice, Not Interview, Right". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 29, 2022.
  26. ^ Wetzel, Dan (December 21, 2010). "LeBron's decisive backlash tops all stories". Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on December 7, 2011.
  27. ^ Kerasotis, Peter (December 25, 2011). "For Miami Heat, High Hopes but Lower Volume". The New York Times. p. SP8. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  28. ^ "Cleveland Plain Dealer's final word on LeBron James". National Post. Canada. November 9, 2010. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010.
  29. ^ "Open Letter to Fans from Cavaliers Majority Owner Dan Gilbert". (Press release). NBA Media Ventures, LLC. July 8, 2010. Archived from the original on July 10, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
  30. ^ Sutter, John D. (July 9, 2010). "Cavs owner's letter mocked for Comic Sans font". Archived from the original on February 10, 2015.
  31. ^ Howard, Johnette (February 9, 2015). "Silver, Dolan both dropped ball". Archived from the original on February 10, 2015.
  32. ^ "Fathead suggests LeBron is the new Benedict Arnold". USA Today. July 8, 2010.
  33. ^ Rhoden, William (July 9, 2010). "Cleveland's Venom Validates James's Exit". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 10, 2015. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
  34. ^ 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 August 19, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010. His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave.
  35. ^ Agyemang, Kwame J. A.; Singer, John N. (March 12, 2013). "Race in the Present Day: NBA Employees Sound Off on Race and Racism". Journal of African American Studies. 18 (1): 11–32. doi:10.1007/s12111-013-9249-2. ISSN 1559-1646. S2CID 144671951.
  36. ^ Adande, J. A. (July 11, 2010). "Gilbert's letter signals wider backlash". ESPN. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  37. ^ "Stern not a fan of 'The Decision'". Sports Illustrated. July 12, 2010. Archived from the original on July 16, 2010. {{cite magazine}}: Unknown parameter |agency= ignored (help)
  38. ^ Moehringer, J.R. (September 2010). "Into the Funhouse with King James". GQ. Archived from the original on December 25, 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.'
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ "Jordan wouldn't have called Magic, Bird". ESPN. July 19, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2010.
  41. ^ 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 July 23, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2010. From college, I was trying to figure out how to beat Larry Bird.
  42. ^ "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.
  43. ^ a b 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.
  44. ^ a b c Freeman, Mike (September 30, 2010). "Lambasted LeBron conveniently sees hurtful role of race". CBS Sports. Archived from the original on October 2, 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.
  45. ^ Whitlock, Jason (September 30, 2010). "Point the finger at yourself, LeBron". Fox Sports. Archived from the original on October 13, 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 Decision.
  46. ^ Lynch, Andrew; ET, 2017 at 8:35a (June 16, 2017). "The history of NBA superteams, from Wilt Chamberlain to the 2017 Warriors". FOX Sports. Retrieved October 7, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  47. ^ 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.
  48. ^ America's Most Disliked Athletes. Forbes; February 7, 2012.
  49. ^ Weir, Tom (December 6, 2011). "LeBron James expresses regrets about 'The Decision'". USA Today. Archived from the original on April 19, 2012.
  50. ^ 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 25, 2012.
  51. ^ Rovell, Darren (July 26, 2013). "LeBron James NBA's most popular". ESPN. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  52. ^ 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.
  53. ^ McPherson, Steve (July 14, 2014). "Forever Changes: NBA Free Agency After LeBron". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 17, 2014.
  54. ^ James, LeBron (July 11, 2014). "I'm Coming Home". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  55. ^ Bontemps, Tim. "Cavaliers end over 50 years of Cleveland sports heartbreak with first NBA championship". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
  56. ^ Rovell, Darren (July 8, 2011). "A Year Later, Polls Show LeBron Still Hasn't Recovered". CNBC. Retrieved May 29, 2022.
  57. ^ "SportsCenter 3-Part Lebron James Series Includes Poll". ESPN Press Room U.S. October 20, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2022.
  58. ^ LeBron James' 'The Decision' hardly represents legacy a decade later -
  59. ^ Ridenour, Marla. "Marla Ridenour: ESPN's 'Backstory: The Decision' explores LeBron James' legacy of empowerment". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved May 29, 2022.

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