LeBron's announcement coming soon

Updated: July 8, 2010, 2:43 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The suspense surrounding LeBron James' free-agency plans continued to mount Wednesday as details of "The Decision" -- the hourlong broadcast on ESPN on Thursday night -- began falling into place.

James will announce his future NBA plans within the first 10 minutes of the 9 p.m. ET special, ESPN said.

Norby Williamson, ESPN's executive vice president for studio and remote production, said Wednesday that sportscaster Jim Gray will handle the introduction, announcement and questions. Gray was handpicked by James' team, which approached the network last week about the special, Williamson said.

Gray and James will be at the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, Conn., where the interview will take place, ESPN said. The broadcast also will include a long-form interview with ESPN's Michael Wilbon and others via satellite from ESPN's studios in Bristol, Conn.

Sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard that representatives for James contacted the network, proposing the idea of a dedicated special. The sources said James' representatives requested they be allowed to sell sponsorship for the broadcast, and ESPN agreed.

"Due to the unprecedented attention and interest surrounding LeBron's decision, we have decided to make this announcement on national television," James' business manager, Maverick Carter, said on lebronjames.com. "By doing so we have generated funds that will be given to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. LeBron has a longstanding commitment to giving back to the community, and has worked with the Boys and Girls Clubs in cities across the country."

ESPN has not been told what James has decided.

One Eastern Conference official close to the situation, when asked to predict the landing spot for James, told ESPN.com: "Cleveland ... or in Miami with [Dwyane] Wade and [Chris] Bosh."

In a joint announcement Wednesday, Wade and Bosh -- the top free agents on the market along with James -- said they will be signing with the Miami Heat.

James? He's kept everyone waiting.

"I'll be watching," said Wade, who may be trying to recruit James to Miami. "We've scheduled it. I'll make sure I'm in front of the TV tomorrow at 9 to watch like everyone else."

Not everyone plans to watch the big announcement. The story has dragged on and dominated the headlines for months. It's no wonder some have been turned off by his need for the spotlight and consider him a bit of a drama King.

"It's gotten ridiculous," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "It's almost like a parody of itself, this whole situation now. Come on, an hour long? It takes 15 seconds to say I've decided to stay in Cleveland but we've got another 59 minutes and 45 seconds to, what? Promote LeBron James?

"As if we don't do that enough. Look, the guy's a great player and wherever he goes, my bet would be Cleveland, that place will be excited. But an hour-long special?"

James offered no hints about his plans on his final, full day of free agency. His secret remains safe, despite an information frenzy and growing speculation the 25-year-old superstar might join Olympic teammates Wade and Bosh in South Florida, a move that would rock the league.

That's exactly what new Cavs coach Byron Scott doesn't want. He showed up unannounced at James' summer camp at the University of Akron and spent an hour watching the two-time MVP run a few full-court games with Cleveland players Jamario Moon, Danny Green, Christian Eyenga and assistant coach Chris Jent.

Scott, who was part of the Cavs' presentation team that wooed James last week at the megastar's business office in downtown Cleveland, said he did not speak with James but was keeping his fingers and toes crossed that James' loyalty to his home state will sway his decision.

"I'm always hopeful," Scott said.

Hope and home are what's sustaining Cleveland's die-hard fans. Although the Cavs could offer James $30 million more on a maximum-length contract than any other team, money might not be enough.

James wants to win championships. Without any salary-cap space, the Cavs, who also could try to swing a last-minute trade to make their roster more appealing to James, don't have enough money to acquire the Robin to his Batman.

But in Cleveland, this goes deeper than dollars.

James is one of their own. Although he led the Cavs through the most successful stretch in their 40-year history, the Akron native came up short in winning a championship and snapping the city's pro sports title drought dating to 1964. In Clevelanders' minds, James has unfinished business. If he decides to leave them dry, he will be viewed as a villain on equal footing with Art Modell, who packed up the Browns and bolted for Baltimore.

In the other NBA cities where James' courtship has dominated the summer's headlines, fans will hope their teams did enough to land LeBron:

• The New York Knicks are counting on the magic of Manhattan, Madison Square Garden and their recent agreement with All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire.

A team spokesman said Wednesday that the Knicks have not been told they are out of the race for James. The Knicks made their pitch to James last Thursday in Cleveland and believe they became even more attractive to him when Stoudemire agreed to an expected five-year, $99.7 million deal with New York on Monday.

Stoudemire said he would try to recruit James to come along. He wrote a message to James on Twitter on Wednesday, telling the MVP to join him in New York and saying "Oh let's do it!!"

New York has enough salary cap space to sign two players to maximum level contracts, and learned Wednesday it will even some money left over

• The New Jersey Nets appealed to James' global ambitions with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, rap mogul Jay-Z -- a close friend of James -- a young roster and their planned move to Brooklyn.

• The Chicago Bulls, who at one point looked to be at the front of the line for James' services, have rising stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, money to spend and just secured free-agent forward Carlos Boozer, who played with James in Cleveland.

• And then there's the Heat. Miami now has two All-Stars and is eager to make room for a third. It's assumed Wade, Bosh and James all would have to take less money to play together, but the chance to win one, two, three or more titles might be enough to convince them to join forces and build a dynasty under president Pat Riley, who might even wind up as their coach.

There have been signs James is preparing for a new chapter in his career.

In recent days, he has relaunched a website that was dormant for two years and opened a Twitter account, which drew more than 250,000 followers in its first two days of existence. Now, he has scheduled an ESPN special to tell the world what he's doing next.

Information from ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard, ESPN.com's Chad Ford and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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