I thought preening royalty went out of style with the recent end of The Tudors‘ reign on Showtime.
Lord LeBron of Akron is stepping onto to the self-absorbed throne, vacated by Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII on the premium service, via his very own TV special tonight, The Decision, on ESPN at 9 p.m. (ET).
Perhaps with trumpets blaring and a scrolling proclamation, James will deign to decree from a Boys & Girls Club of America in Greenwich, Conn. (appropriately enough), where he will collect a fresh batch of multi-millions from the next stage of his career.
Say what you will about ESPN’s sense of journalism and exclusives, time buys that are not time buys and charitable donations by LeBron’s corporate benefactors. To the latter end I’m hopeful, he’ll up the ante, saying he’ll donate X for every point, rebound, assist and block he registers during the 2010-11 season. And those contributions will double in the opening round of the playoffs, triple in the second round, quadruple in the conference finals and jump five times for The Finals.
Then again, maybe Boys & Girls wants to get that contract front-loaded. We’re not talking about Kobe here.
Indeed, it’s all been way too much, this cottage industry about where the would-be King will hold court next. For a man who professes to enjoy the pass more than the score, James’s persona has grown even more selfish, which I guess is a requisite for someone trying to become a billion dollar brand.
David Stern’s league has always been star-driven. And this 2010 free agency class thing, led by LeBron has kept the league front and center, upstaging the World Cup (still not necessarily a difficult task in this country) and baseball. But it often eclipsed the seven-game Finals between the league’s top franchises and brands the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
Don’t get me wrong. The presence of James certainly will lift a franchise’s ticket sales and its overall value. The regional sports network that televises his club’s games will also ascend (or descend as the case may be for FSN Ohio).
But at the end of seven seasons, LeBron’s career remains more about amazing physical attributes and individual skills. In other words, imagine how people would be turning their lives upside down if James’s team accomplishments matched his hype and highlights. As to those who argue that LeBron’s championship aspirations have come up lame (how’s that arm feeling, big fella) because he hasn’t been blessed by the best supporting cast, I offer two words: Rick Barry. The small forward, an underhanded foul-shooting master, jump shooter and father of former NBA players and now analysts Brent and Jon, led his largely non-descript Golden State Warriors team (yes, Jamal Wilkes and Phil Smith were talented rookies) to the 1975 title.
And I’ll certainly be checking in on the first bit of the special tonight to the point where LeBron says he’s staying at home with the Cavs in Cleveland, joining Jim Dolan’s Madison Square Garden group, teaming with buds Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami (fax that: Pat Riley sticking it to the Knicks again) or playing Jordannaire to His Airness’ legacy in Chicago.
However, after the reveal — that 9 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. window should be huge among the Nielsens, and for their sakes, I hope all of LeBron’s sponsors get to run their spots and earn their tithes during this quarter hour — I won’t indulge the subsequent homage and analysis. Can I get a rodonculous right now, Stuart Scott, Jim Gray, Mike Wilbon and Jon Barry about what it does for his new employer or those who weren’t granted the ultimate audience?
My decision: wait for the expanded two-hour of SportsCenter that follows for all of that.
And by the way, one final question: Why isn’t Skip Bayless, a regular on ESPN2’s First Take and known LeBron hater, part of the special? He no doubt could share some salient perspectives and serve as a surrogate for a constituency whose ranks have certainly swelled in recent weeks.