- Tim Keown, ESPN Senior Writer
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The idiocy is what we'll miss. Once LeBron James announces Thursday where he'll play basketball for the next several years, there will be no more alphabet-based songs from Broadway singers, no more fans spending their own money on billboards, no more guys waxing their chests and devising elaborate handshakes to persuade James to play basketball for their team.
The vast, endless stupidity is what separates us from other creatures. It is what makes us proud to be American sports fans. And in LeBron James we have found a remarkable confluence of circumstances, people and cities to bring the stupidity to an epic spike, a moment in time that is giving us a glimpse into the brains of a certain segment of the population.
In New York, a supposed all-star cast of celebrities teamed up to recruit James: Donald Trump, Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock, Boomer Esiason, Spike Lee and Alec Baldwin. This raises an important question: Couldn't Chris Rock just call LeBron? You know, his people call his people and make it happen? Because Chris Rock teaming up with Donald Trump on anything shatters my opinion of Chris Rock. In fact, Chris Rock teaming up with Donald Trump would be a good jumping-off point for a Chris Rock routine on bad decisions made by celebrities. If, of course, Chris Rock wasn't the guy making that decision in the first place.
This might seem crazy, but I think the stupidity surrounding LeBron is exceeding the stupidity surrounding the last two Brett Favre retirements. To this point, the Favre sagas were the pinnacles of media/fan stupidity, true classics of the form.
But this saga has a guy named Brandon George committing 23 acts of ... what? Loyalty? Stupidity? Stupid loyalty? For one of them, he returned a kick against a rugby team without the benefit of teammates. If that doesn't get LeBron to stay with the Cavs, you've got to figure he was planning on leaving no matter what.
Yes, LeBron has Favre beat, which must count for bragging rights in the athlete/celebrity world forum. For instance, LeBron opened a Twitter account Tuesday and within an hour had 14,000 followers. I don't really know what that means, except that 14,000 people must expect there to be a big lag time between LeBron's announcement of his decision -- assuming it's via Twitter -- and the media's subsequent reporting of that decision.
Seems unlikely. Most of the LeBron story seems pretty well covered. As you may have heard, James went to a Nike skills camp at the University of Akron on Monday. Reporters followed.
He entered the arena at 2:55 p.m. and asked for the main locker room to be opened so he could change. He wore a black, "torso-hugging top." He played basketball, iced both of his knees and his right elbow. He changed into a white T-shirt and a Yankees cap. He was asked if he had anything to say about his upcoming decision -- you've heard he's got a decision to make, right? -- and the Associated Press reported that he responded with "a pointed finger, smile, chuckle and head shake."
Whoa. Slow down there. Four different nonverbal responses to a single question. Seems like we might be missing something here in our haste to coax a decision out of the man. Maybe we should be asking ourselves: And what can we discern from those four nonverbal responses?
Let's break it down:
A pointed finger: Classic stall tactic. Caught off guard by the question, he buys himself some time by pointing at the questioner. Defuses the situation immediately by acknowledging both the question and the questioner. The outward point clearly indicates a desire to be elsewhere.
Smile: He's happy. He's in Akron. Smile presents something of a contradiction when juxtaposed with outward pointing finger. Could be diversionary tactic. Important question not addressed: Was it a close-mouthed smile or were teeth involved? If teeth, done deal.
Chuckle: I don't want to call into question the veracity of the reporting, but the chuckle is what throws me. First, a chuckle, being spontaneous, connotes surprise. There could be nothing less surprising than a reporter from the Associated Press -- someone who is standing around the gym for hours counting the minutes the ice remains on James' knees -- asking James if he has made up his mind on where he is going to sign. My guess is it was more of a resigned chuckle, a tired, defeated chuckle -- more along the lines of a scoff. In which case it is meant to signify inevitability. In other words, "You, my diligent follower, should already know the answer to that question, since you have been reporting it in some form or fashion for the past two years."
Advantage: New York.
Head shake: Many possibilities here. Was it a slow, leave-me-alone head shake? A sideways no-you-don't headshake, like Dikembe Mutombo after a block? A quick, dismissive caught-in-a-lie headshake? Let's assume it's the Mutombo. James is telling the questioner, "Look, if you didn't catch my drift in the first three nonverbal responses, I must resort to the less subtle head-shake approach, which does not reflect well on your reportorial abilities."
It's all going to come down to how much weight LeBron puts on George, who also brushed his teeth with hot sauce in Challenge No. 2, versus the girls from "Promises, Promises," who took the time to inform him that New York has "tattoo shops, the Village and Wall Street." Then again, the same hot sauce guy is the bake-a-cake guy and the waxing-his-chest guy.
And to see him and his flip-flop wearing buddy "The Akron Nail" performing their 23-step handshake (No. 14) is enough to make you wish you were the one being wooed by such loyal fans. It's enough to make the prospect of a nine-figure contract and future championships seem trivial.
8hEthan Sherwood Strauss