Even though LeBron James’ free agency officially started a week ago, the real impact of his upcoming decision started about two years ago.
In those two years, what is supposed to be a business process has turned into a media circus so unbelievably unprofessional it makes the coverage of the Tiger Woods scandal look like the coverage of the Lawrence Taylor trial—trivial.
At least with Tiger though, you could blame the networks and so-called “journalists” for covering gossip like news.
It was clear that Tiger, in his non-question-taking press conference and timed interview, was not going to play into the game everyone was hoping he would.
It doesn’t feel that way with James.
What is most amazing in this entire process is that people are actually getting paid, and by James, to promote what will inevitably become his downfall.
That century old cliché that no press is bad press in the world of the media may have just been laid to rest.
With the announcement of an hour long special celebrating LeBron’s decision, on top of the multiple hours each day that ESPN and every news outlet across the country already covers the matter, James’ public relations specialist just put the last nail in the coffin for the NBA superstar.
No matter where James decides to head tonight, he will only be salvaging how the public perceives him, he will not be changing their negative perception.
As of now, if public perception of James had to be gauged on a grading scale, James’ PR GPA would be a -3.9.
Choosing a destination tonight may bring him up as high as a -1.0, but either way he’s still a sinking ship.
No matter the decision for James tonight, he’s in a lose/lose situation.
The people he employs, coupled with his incredibly large ego, have put the baby in the corner—in the corner of a hole they dug in the middle of a volcano.
If James goes to Miami, he goes to a team with more talent than any other roster in NBA history, proving once and for all that he will never be as good as Jordan, and that he can’t win a championship of his own volition.
If he goes to Chicago, he will forever live in the shadow of Michael Jordan.
Unless he is able to win seven championships with Boozer and a team with a questionable future, he will never be the greatest NBA player of all time—something he clearly holds on to.
If he goes to New York, then he announces it tonight in front of his home-state, his current team, and a city who is struggling economically and clinging on to their one hope of entertainment in a contending basketball team.
If James tells the world tonight that he is leaving the Cavaliers, while in Cleveland, it would be one of the most shameful acts an athlete has ever committed.
You don’t announce that you’re skipping town—you just skip town.
You don’t look at all the people who you’ve been teasing for the past year—with the release of your special edition shoe in New York, your donning of the Knicks colors, your hanging around Jay-Z and attending Yankees games every chance you get—then hold an hour long conference to let them know their extra money, support and unconditional love regardless of a championship isn’t equal to a pay-cut, a depleted roster, a coach who has yet to win a championship, and the world’s most fickle fan base.
Then again, what happens if you stay in Cleveland?
The fan bases of those cities mentioned above, and the entire nation who have been dragged through this process in order look forward to some sort of outcome will look at the past two years and say “for what?”
Every sports fan, no matter the sport, has put up with the constant barraging, meetings, updates, tweets regarding LeBron’s free agency for days on end... and for what?
For a player who has likely known where he is going to end up since this debacle started, not seven days ago, but seven hundred days ago.
The inevitable answer people across the nation will conclude from the question of “for what?” will be: "for James’ ego."
Not to mention the fact that any recognition James may get in the realm of being a loyal player will be immediately countered with the notion that he may have taken the job in Ohio solely due to the fact that there is more money involved.
Cleveland also presents a happy-medium for the superstar, with Chicago and New York not being good enough, and Miami being too good a team to get any national credit and athletic respect from, James’s future in Cleveland could just be a way for the big fish to stay in the small pond.
No matter the decision tonight, James will not just be picking a franchise.
He will be picking a poison.
One that he and his hired personnel have concocted.
It is a mix one part ego, one part bad publicity, and ten parts media relations.
When he drinks it, he may want to swallow the bitter pill that is his ego in order to gain back some sort of respect from a nation of sports fans.