And we thought preening royalty
went out of style with the recent end of The Tudors’
reign on Showtime.
Lord LeBron of Akron stepped onto to his throne
of self-absorption, vacated by Jonathan
Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII on the premium
service, via his very own TV special
on ESPN on July 8, The Decision.
Although trumpets didn’t blare and
a proclamation didn’t scroll as James
announced he would be leaving the
Cleveland Cavaliers, the team he toiled
for during his first seven years in the
NBA, to join fellow free agents, Olympic
teammates and buddies Chris Bosh
and Dwayne Wade on the Miami Heat,
it was a spectacle nonetheless.
The circus was orchestrated by überagent
Ari Emanuel and Maverick Carter, the CEO of
LRMR, James’ marketing company. Carter reached
out to ESPN for a time-buy model, securing the hour
(it turned out to be 75 minutes). But the sports programmer
didn’t charge for the event, which was underwritten
by a number of companies, including
some LeBron pitches for, with the proceeds benefitting the Boys & Girls Club of America.
The arrangements brought into question the journalistic,
news and advertising practices of ESPN.
Further, Jim Gray, handpicked by the James camp
and LRMR, conducted the interview more like a
court jester, prolonging the query that was the only
reason anybody was tuning in for in the first place.
Gray’s script didn’t elicit James’ Miami
call until close to 9:30 p.m., well after the
first-quarter-hour reveal that ESPN had
promised during a conference call with
reporters on July 7.
Nevertheless, the special played large,
drawing a 7.3 rating in Nielsen overnights
(more complete data wasn’t available
at press time). It marked the highest
overnight rating for any non-NFL ESPN
program so far this year and was the toprated
program in all of television, according
to network officials.
The Nielsens will chronicle how the ratings
will rise for Sun Sports, which holds the cable-TV
rights to Heat games, and fall for Fox Sports Ohio now
that James is no longer holding court for the Cavs.
In the meantime, James no doubt lost followers
in Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles.
NBA franchises there met with LeBron and his
reps during his free-agency courtship.
With his all-about-me TV special and playoff failures,
James and his visions of his billion-dollar brand
don’t appear nearly as regal as they once did.