LeBron James opted out of his Miami contract. He and his inner circle met with prospective teams, at some point over a 16-day period. He chose Cleveland. That’s all we know happened. It was ordered and rational. This was no saga, though you wouldn’t have known from the coverage.
Sports media coverage has become self-sufficient. With hypotheticals and baseless psychoanalysis, news is no longer required. LeBron did nothing noteworthy the past couple weeks, after opting out. He went to his basketball camp. He decided to attend the World Cup final. He got on airplanes. Yet, scores of reporters and an entire industry filled the gaps with pure, baseless conjecture. Media outlets have precise metrics on what the addicts want, and give it to them.
Hamster wheels spun so fast media members flying off were the only tangible parts of this story. LeBron Free Agency 2014 was a ceaseless torrent of bullshit. It was sports Twitter’s “Guernica.”
This frothing media effort was fruitless. LeBron released the information himself, through Sports Illustrated. He could have tweeted, though moving to the Cavs warranted a bit more than 140 characters. This entire media enterprise, which spent the past few weeks parsing absolutely nothing with the utmost scrutiny, accepted it as a genuine, 1st-person essay. Not, as say … a press release. LeBron just wanted to embrace the challenge! (A challenge more appealing now that Cleveland is in a better position to move assets and win.)
Maybe it was genuine. Perhaps LeBron avoiding adverbs and pairing simple action verbs with concise sentence structure was the result of incredible high school English instruction. But I’d suspect someone (or multiple individuals) with PR training had a heavy hand on the quill.
It’s hard distinguishing genuine from scripted with LeBron. He’s the best and most managed athlete in professional sports. He has been since he was a teenager. Here is what it’s like trying to get 20 minutes one-on-one with him. LeBron has been covered obsessively for a decade in the Internet era. But, we know almost nothing about him. LeBron is awesome at basketball. He endorses products. He’s fighting a losing battle with male pattern baldness. Beyond that … he likes Akron, he seems to be into cycling, he watches major sporting events … yeah. That’s about it.
We know little about LeBron. We know way too much about what other people think about LeBron.
Sports media have put more effort into LeBron than any single athlete. Manifest during the “saga” is that few people knew anything. No one had a handle on him. Few knew enough, when presented with the information to place it within a meaningful context. He circumvented the media entirely. He controlled his message 100 percent from inception to finish. Which should beg the question…why are we all here?