Commentary

The LeBron circus just getting started

Originally Published: June 4, 2010
By Chris Broussard | ESPN The Magazine

It always promised to be a circus -- with billboards around the country proclaiming their undying love for LeBron, with politicians putting aside weightier matters to sell their city as the place to be, with teams recruiting The King with enough pizzazz to make a 17-year-old's trip to Chapel Hill seem as boring as a nap.

So I guess we shouldn't be surprised by all the rumor-mongering, the partial housecleaning in Cleveland, the TV reruns fixed up and finagled to make them appear current, or the fact that folks are deciphering LeBron's every syllabic utterance with the intensity of a Bible verse.

As eventful as Friday was -- Cavs GM Danny Ferry resigned; a report basically accused LeBron of being the ubernarcissist -- this "Summer of LeBron" will get only wackier and wackier.

First, rabid followers of LeBron's Great Adventure woke up to read that he and Nike were planning to create and sell a special shoe for each leg of his Free Agent Tour, complete with the date of his visits to New York, New Jersey and Chicago imprinted on the kicks. To date, however, James has no visits planned and has not sat down with his "team" to discuss their strategy, according to sources close to him.

Everyone who read about that supposed plan must have grimaced and screamed, "Yuck!'' Talk about a PR blunder. That would've been the Titanic, the Michael Jordan, the Rolls-Royce of PR blunders.

But here's the thing: It was wrong, very wrong.

"The report is not true,'' Nike spokesman KeJuan Wilkins said. "Nike is not creating any shoes in relation to LeBron's free agency.''

Will LeBron take a free-agent tour? Of course. He'll hit the three aforementioned cities and maybe more. But the notion that he'll turn each stop into a marketing campaign (which, ironically, would only severely damage his brand) seems to be a figment of some folks' imaginations.

Next, the Cleveland Cavaliers continued to either unravel or lay the foundation for James to return, depending on your perspective. Less than two weeks after firing head coach Mike Brown, the club announced that Ferry was stepping down and being replaced by his assistant GM, Chris Grant. Officially, it was a mutual decision reached by Ferry and owner Dan Gilbert.

"Dan and I decided it was the right time to part ways,'' Ferry said.

Unofficially, Gilbert was about to take away some of Ferry's authority. In his five years there, Ferry had always had final say on basketball matters. It was something he demanded before accepting the job. But from now on, sources say Gilbert's going to be more involved in basketball decisions. That didn't sit well with Ferry.

Will the new system sit well with LeBron? Will Gilbert lean more on The King's advisers when making basketball decisions? Or will LeBron, viewing Cavs management as a crew that tried but ultimately failed to put a championship squad around him, see Ferry's right-hand man, Grant, as just more of the same?

Stay tuned.

Speaking of tuning in, did you see LeBron on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Thursday night? And on ABC's "Nightline" before that?

Scores of people did because those appearances, plus Friday's airing of his CNN interview with Larry King, have him getting ripped for "going on all these shows and trying to upstage the NBA Finals.''

Can you believe the nerve of this guy?! What gall?!

The righteous indignation is at a fever pitch.

Only this is a lot like Shoe-Gate. It's a mirage that's completely beyond LeBron's control.

Both the "Jimmy Kimmel" bit and the "Nightline" interview were reruns that were taped and aired months ago. The "Nightline" interview took place on April 5, the day after Easter, when the Cavaliers looked to be buzzing toward the NBA Finals. The introductions to the spots were changed and infused with free-agent talk to make them seem up-to-date, but to use them as evidence that LeBron's trying to outshine the Finals is to misplace the blame.

Now he did do the Larry King interview this week. Personally, I have no problem with it. I mean, he had the chance to be on the 25th anniversary week of an iconic show along with other headliners President Barack Obama and Bill Gates.

He was supposed to turn that down? Why, because he lost in the second round? Because Game 1 of the Finals was being played the night before?

Look at it from a selfish standpoint: If LeBron hadn't done that interview we wouldn't have had the "Cleveland has an edge" quote to feed us all week.

Speaking of which, what did that quote mean? Who knows? All he did was state the obvious.

I keep hearing Chicago, Cleveland and New Jersey, with New York still in the picture and Dallas ready to jump a few notches if the Cavs consider sign-and-trades. But honestly, the more plugged-in people I talk to, the muddier the picture seems to get.

It's a circus, all right, one that will get only crazier by the day.