Time magazine called it the second biggest sports moment of the year. No matter how you cut it, ESPN's July special focused on LeBron James' free agency, and hosted by Jim Gray, left a bad taste with the sports world. Many fans and critics at the time criticized the network for its self-absorbent coverage of the NBA star's announcement that he was heading to Miami. Now, at the end of the year, many are reliving the special that "felt like a hostage situation." Still, some are reevaluating the whole saga, six months afterward:
The Decision still reeks: It was a show built around "bad taste and poor execution" that was "the greatest example of self-absorbed nonsense I've ever witnessed by a professional athlete," says Bryan Burwell in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "No one faults a man for moving to better professional circumstances, but how about doing it with a little class?" Even as LeBron and the Miami Heat figure out how to win, it "will never remove this indelible stain of self-indulgence from his once impeccable reputation."
But LeBron helped the NBA: "LeBron James did more than tarnish his image this offseason. He reshaped and re-energized the league," says Fox Sports' Jason Whitlock. James' "self-indulgent, take-my-talents-to-South Beach TV show" and selection of Miami as his new home has led to more "intensity" on the court this year. It "set off a free-agent frenzy and raised the regular-season stakes" for other teams looking to improve to keep up.
There's a positive light: That "breathtaking narcissism," says Bruce Arthur in National Post, isn't really defensible. "It may have been the most crass, blind, tone-deaf, sycophantic, narcissistic, wretched hour in sports television history." Yet, with the "way the culture is going, we shouldn't have been appalled, really. But in a way, it's nice to know that's still possible." So perhaps "The Championship of Me" really taught us something about ourselves.