Ten Things I’m Hoping to See in LeBron James’s FA Decision Special
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 8, 2010
It had to end this way. Yeah, you can hem and haw about the morality of the whole thing–lord knows that Adrian Wojnarowski took his crack at it from that angle, and he was certainly well within his right to do so–but really, what’s the point in complaining at this point? If you had woken up groggily at 7:30 A.M. to an ESPN.com headline: “LeBron to Cleveland: ‘I’m Comin’ Home!'” or “LeBron James: In a New York State of Mind!”…it wouldn’t have felt right, would it? After two-plus years of media hype leading up to two-plus weeks of utter media freakout, it would have seemed anti-climactic to just say to yourself “Oh, huh, looks like LeBron decided to go with the Cavs/Knicks/Bulls/Nets/Heat/Mavs/Bafana Bafana/Monstars, how about that” and then go about your day’s business. No, it had to be a media event unto itself, happening at a specific time that everyone knew to anticipate–primetime, no less. It had to happen the day after most of the other high-profile free agents announced their upcoming teams–possibly unwittingly–to whet the public’s appetite for the main event. It had to end like this.
So yes, I’ll be watching tomorrow at 9:00 when LeBron James goes live on ESPN to announce the team he will be signing with as a free agent (and possibly dictating the next ten years of the NBA in the process). I can’t wait, really. But in the interest of accepting this event in the spirit that it was given–that of straight-faced crassness and a severe distrust of moderation–I have a couple ideas of elements for the event itself, to allow it to best reach its maximum potential. (By the way, this max potential does not include LBJ buzz-killingly giving the game away in the first ten minutes, as he’s bone-headedly suggested he will do, so I’ve ignored that bit entirely.) After all, I’m gonna want to see this event marathoned endlessly on NBA Classic in the weeks leading up to July of 2015 or 2016, when we doubtless will be going through all this glorious nonsense once again.
10. The Reps of All Teams in Play–One Front Office, One Player. This one is obvious to the point that I almost feel like I’m being insulting by mentioning it. You know the drill from the draft and lottery–mini-podiums featuring the logos of the half-dozen or so teams involved, with one General Manager-type busily working the phones (though at this point it’d probably be entirely for show–even better) while the player past or present who best represents the current futility of the franchise involved (Eddy Curry for the Knicks, Michael Beasley for the Heat, a contentious tandem of Baron Davis and Elton Brand for the Clippers, etc.) wrings his hands nervously. There’s nothing quite like that inevitable slllllump motion that happens when a player sees his team lose out at the lottery, and realizes at once that the next 82 games of his NBA life is going to be little more than a character-building exercise. Now picture that times about a thousand. Mo Williams might actually disintegrate before our very eyes.
9. The Split-Screen Shots of Huddled Fanbases. Sorry, another super-obvious one. For all I know they’re actually planning on doing this–packing Quicken Loans Arena, Madison Square Garden, the United Center and whatever other arenas that have fanbases desperate enough for LeBron that they’d make the trip out on a muggy Thursday night to listen for a fifteen-second, potentially franchise-dooming announcement. Showed in split-screen of course, and interspersed with interviews with fans present who are absolutely certain that LBJ is coming their way and more than willing to explain the logic why–the fatter, sweatier, and more ostentatiously-dressed the better, natch. Then at the end, the incomparable sound of 20,000 fans in five or so different cities simultaneously gasping “OHHHHH!!,” like a college who just found out their team just missed the NCAA bubble, and would never have a shot at making the tournament again.
8. The Musical Guests. C’mon, you can’t have something termed an “Hour-Long Special” without at least one or two special musical guests. Jay-Z’s the obvious choice, but probably a bit too obvious, and he’s got other responsibilities for the night anyway (more on that later). I’m thinking Drake is the most likely candidate, returning the favor for LeBron serving (somewhat poorly) as his hype man at a show in Cleveland a little while back, maybe with a cameo appearance by Mary J. Blige, who can stick around to sing the National Anthem or something if she so desires. Maybe we could even get a special version of “Forever” (originally recorded for LeBron’s More Than a Game doc!) with Drake’s verse altered to be about LeBron–or better yet, rapped from LeBron’s perspective. “I’m tellin’ every team they the one for me / When I ain’t even plannin’ to caaaaalllll….”
7. The Musical Theme Montage. Along a similar theme, once Drake and company have settled down, the Connecticut Symphonic Orchestra can take their rightful place in the pit, to play an instrumental montage of the various musical pleas that fanbases have recorded trying to beg LeBron to grace their city with his presence. There’ll be all the old favorites–“We are LeBron,” “A Love Song to LeBron James,” “Come on LeBron, Put Your Mavericks Jersey On,” sing along everybody, you know the words!!–as a projected video display pans over pictures of the respective fans and cities. Maybe splice in some cuts of people in the audience crying, because you know there’ll be a bunch of those for one reason or another. At the end, perhaps it can even all add up to a full CD soundtrack, available at the concession stands and eventually on iTunes. It’s for the Boy Scouts!
6. The Grand Entrance. While Stu Scott, Jon Barry and Jeff Van Gundy are still busy grappling about team odds and flashing through all the old “Prominent Free Agents Through NBA History Who Have Left for Another Team” graphics, all of a sudden the lights cut out, and a familiar low bass hum starts to emerge from the loudspeakers. That bass eventually gives way to the spectral guitar twinkling of the Alan Parsons Project’s “Sirius,” as a spotlight shines on the back entrance (Every Chicago Bulls fan believes this means he has now signed with them, until they realize that musical originality doesn’t exist among NBA franchises and that every team in play has likely used “Sirius” in team intros at one point or another). Suddenly a microphone drops to mid-stage and Michael Buffer walks out (having specifically signed a written promise that he will not drop a “LLLLLET’S GET READY TO RUM-BULLLL!!!” though he probably tries to work one in anyway) to give LeBron his proper introduction: “AND NOW…6’9″ FORWARD…FROM ST. VINCENT-ST. MARY’S…PERHAPS ABOUT TO PLAY FOR YOUR FAVORITE TEAM…. LLLLLLLLLEBROOOOONNNN JAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMES!!!!!” LeBron walks out in a snazzy-looking suit and sunglasses, saunters slowly down the aisle, gives a “who, me?” wink and a shrug to the camera, and takes his place on the cartoonishly-oversized throne on stage.
5. The Roast. Of course, LeBron has to let us know that he’s in on the joke himself, and is willing to take the piss a little in the name of good fun. Hence, some of our country’s finest roasters–who I’d be able to name if I’d ever watched a Comedy Central roast in my life (Gilbert Godfried? He does that shit, right?)–come on stage to throw their rocks at the king. Subjects include, but are not limited to: LeBron’s lack of rings, his getting dunked on by Jordan Crawford at his summer camp one year ago, his getting owned by Shaq in the 2007 All-Star Weekend dance-off, his pussying out of the 2010 Slam-Dunk Contest and arguably killing the event in the process, his lack of rings, his “crab-dribble” excuse for his game-losing travel against the Wizards in the ’09 regular season, his turning the reins over to Kobe in the waning minutes of the 2008 Gold Medal game, his team’s awful parody of that awful Heineken commercial, and his lack of rings. LeBron laughs and plays along through all of it, ever the good sport, until one brave soul–Jeffrey Ross is the other roaster’s name I know, so let’s say him–makes an unexpected crack about Delonte West sleeping with LeBron’s mother. The joke gets the biggest roar of the night from the crowd, and LeBron appears OK with it too, but for a split-second–barely perceivable to the naked eye, and only marginally captured on camera–his smile vanishes, replaced by a penetrating glare that says I could snap your neck right here and now and not one of the millions of people watching worldwide would dare call me out on it. Ross isn’t even positive he sees it himself, but he makes one quick, final joke about LeBron’s lack of rings and sheepishly scuttles off, ending the Roast. Skip Bayless, still howling from the back, begs for an encore.
4. The Airing of Grievances. This part of the evening is partially lifted from Adam Jacobi, who tweeted a week or so ago: “When LeBron chooses a team, he should cite petty slights and anecdotes as evidence the other teams ‘didn’t want me enough.'” Couldn’t agree more, Adam. I have no doubt that LeBron has kept something of a mental Rolodex of these items (and perhaps a physical Rolodex as well, or some sort of lame 21st-century equivalent), and though I doubt any of them actually made or broke his decision, he no doubt wants to get them off his chest as much as we in attendance and watching at home would like to hear them. It’s like the scene from Dogma in the Mooby head offices, as LeBron circles the mini-podiums of teams, occasionally whipping out a semi-automatic (probably just loaded with paintballs, actual bullets being a little too metaphorical) and spraying the booths of franchises who didn’t say God Bless You when he sneezed. He doesn’t eliminate all the offending franchises, of course–need to keep a little bit of suspense for the big reveal, you understand–but most of the teams we knew probably didn’t have a shot in the first place (Mavericks, Clippers, Wizards if they feel like showing up just because they were in the neighborhood) all get tagged.
3. The Final Pitch. With just a few minutes remaining before LeBron’s final decision is made, Stu Scott reveals a twist to the King–without his knowledge, ESPN has assembled additional, surprise representatives from each of the remaining franchises to deliver one final, heartfelt plea to LeBron as to why he should come into the fold. Jay-Z and Mikhail Prokhorov, the LeBrons of their respective fields, are up first, and they pitch the Nets to him as a chance to join their ranks as a worldwide industry into himself. Next, New York sends Spike Lee, wearing an XL “James / 6” Knicks jersey and preaching the otherworldliness of playing 41 home games a year in Madison Square Garden. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh then appear via satellite from a Miami strip club, showering dancers with hundreds and spraying the entire room with Chandon as they intoxicatedly blather about the good times the three of them could have as Heat teammates in South Beach. And in the most heart-rending presentation, Cavs running mate of seven years Zydrunas Ilgauskas comes out and reads a broken-English poem about how much LeBron’s friendship means to him, breaking down in tears as he reads the final sentence begging him not to leave.
And lastly, appearing on stage out of a puff of smoke, is none other than the original #23 himself, Michael Jordan. “I know sometimes I’ve come off as cold or unappreciative these last seven years,” LeBron’s all-time idol finally admits to him. “But that’s just because I wanted to make sure you were ready. I mean really, really, ready. And now, after all this time, LeBron, I only have one question for you.” Jordan pauses, reaches underneath the podium, and pulls out an original, mint-condition pair of 1985 Air Jordans. “Do you dare to fill these shoes?“
2. The Fake-Out. With all the spectacle finished, with everything that needs to be said said, only one thing remains: The Decision. And so LeBron, for the first time since his arrival, steps up from his throne, and approaches the podium. “OK y’all, clowning time is over. I want to think all of y’all for coming out tonight, for supporting me and the Boys and Girls Club of America, and for bearing witness to this historical moment in NBA history. And the team that I, LeBron James, am going to be signing with isssss…..”
(Crowd leans forward, gasps in anticipation)
“…coming up RIGHT AFTER THIS COMMERCIAL BREAK!!”
(Crowd exhales anxiously, musters minor applause)
1. The Reveal. Finally, after a long commercial break–likely featuring at least one Nike ad with Puppet Kobe watching Puppet LeBron’s press conference from his mansion, muttering to himself “Best of luck to you, bwoy….but wherever you go, remember…” (Cut to shot of Puppet Kobe’s shooting hand, which has a shimmering championship ring on every finger and thumb) “…I’ll be waiting”–we return to LeBron on stage. “OK, y’all waited long enough,” he says, wiping the sweat from his brow. “The next team that I, LeBron James…” He stops suddenly, the crowd silent. He restarts, wiping his brow again. “The team I’m going to be playing for…” He stops again. The crowd starts to murmur. LeBron looks away, trying to regain his composure. He tries again. “The team I’m signing wi–” He collapses at the podium. The crowd gasps in horror. People call out for doctors. Stu Scott looks nervously at Jon Barry and Jeff Van Gundy with a “They don’t expect ME to try to deal with this, do they?” expression on his face. Jeff and Jon shrug.
All of a sudden, LeBron leaps back up to the podium, clutching his chest in agony. The gasps in the crowd turn to shriek. LeBron continues to cluth his chest, and begins to wail. The wail turns into a thunderous scream as all of a sudden, in one fluid motion, LeBron rips off his shirt and jacket…revealing a jersey of the team he has decided to play for underneath. “I’M COMIN’ TO [TEAM], BABY!!!!” he bellows into the microphone. The shrieks turn to cheers and tentative applause, which grows louder as LeBron tears off his suit pants to reveal matching gym shorts underneath, and kicks off his dress shoes in favor of a nearby pair of impossibly bright Nike LeBron VII MVP PEs. Suddenly, a glass backboard and rim unfolds from the ceiling at the far end of the stage, and Maverick Carter tosses LeBron a basketball, as Coolio’s “It’s All the Way Live (Now)” comes blasting onto the loudspeakers. The crowd now at near-Duke/UNC levels, LeBron takes a few dribbles and retreats to the opposite end of the stage. He starts a jog to the hoop that turns into a full-scale sprint that ends in an earth-shaking, backboard-shattering dunk as LeBron hangs on the rim for a full half-minute, howling at the moon. (Whether or not the backboard was made of breakaway glass will be a controversy for years to come, though those in attendance will forever swear it was legit). As he lands to a roar of the crowd that breaks about a half-dozen different city ordinances, he has but one message for the audience:
“See y’all in October.”
LeBron exits the stage, as the final cheer causes all the windows in the building to shatter and attracts every neighborhood dog within a five-mile radius. Fade out, and cue the SportsCenter music.