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The outcry and commentary generated by Lebron James and “The Decision” represented the beginning of a new altered, democratized media landscape.

Sometimes, to echo the old phrase, stories take on a life of their own. As a new ESPN “Backstory” documentary notes, “The Decision,” the made-for-TV special that aired ten years ago this summer, affected its subject, LeBron James, with additional implications that reverberated far beyond the superstar forward.

Maverick Carter and Rich Paul, two of James’s closest advisors, thought the special would allow James to control his own narrative. They got ESPN to donate an hour of prime-time television (James donated proceeds from ads his longtime charity: the Boys and Girls Clubs) and demanded freelance sportscaster Jim Gray host the special — a man not even affiliated with the network. Ultimately, however, the special ended up having many unintended consequences for James, the world of sports, and media at large. Unseemly Spectacle

Before he died in January, then-NBA Commissioner David Stern said he pleaded with ESPN management to cancel the “The Decision.” Even as Carter and James produced the special, James seemed to have given little thought as to what he would say during the show. Several minutes of awkward conversation between James and Gray, done to heighten the suspense, led to LeBron’s infamous statement that “this fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”

The new “Backstory” documentary reveals previously undisclosed details about “The Decision.” For one, the idea came from Drew Wagner , a Columbus resident and Detroit Pistons fan, who wrote into then-ESPN columnist Bill Simmons suggesting a LeBron free agency special in the fall of 2009. Simmons took it to Carter, who then engaged agent Ari Emanuel, the brother of former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Carter and […]


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