It was the most riveting hour of live national television since Geraldo Rivera breathlessly described the opening of Al Capone’s vault 24 years ago.
Instead of dirt and an empty glass bottle, we got LeBron James talking in the third person about all the talent he brought to Cleveland for seven years before telling us he was now going to bring all that talent to Miami, where everybody thought he would go in the first place.
It was a stilted and awkward setting at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of America in Connecticut as he sat down before a silent audience of, well, boys and girls, with an ESPN reporter who tried his best to drag out the painful proceedings by asking about a dozen inane questions before finally getting around to the BIG ONE.
By the end of the show, it was clear LeBron’s ego had left the following in its wake: One very happy American city, five other cities shrugging their shoulders and one really pissed off Cleveland, Ohio where his uniform was burned in effigy and the owner — Dan Gilbert — released a statement calling LeBron selfish, heartless, callous and cowardly.
As for the LeBron James brand — I suppose he could have damaged it more by, say, bringing guns into a locker room, but he did not help himself a lot. He had always touted himself as the kind of player that would not thump his chest and taunt opponents after a slam dunk. This was an hour of boring chest-thumping that has won him the enmity of at least six NBA cities where he is sure to be booed and reviled in the coming season.
One thing I think we can breathe easy about is that this strange, uncomfortable, melding of sports, entertainment and news is not likely to be repeated. It was horrendous, anti-climatic television likely to be parodied and mocked for decades to come. I can’t imagine why any major broadcast company would ever want to repeat such a mind-numbingly vapid proceeding.