13 Years Ago Today ESPN Live-Broadcasted ‘The Decision’
13 years ago today, on July 8, 2010, ESPN had its infamous live-broadcast of LeBron James’ decision, where he eventually announced that he would sign with the Miami Heat.
“In this fall… this is very tough… in this fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat. I feel like it’s going to give me the best opportunity to win and to win for multiple years, and not only just to win in the regular season or just to win five games in a row or three games in a row, I want to be able to win championships. And I feel like I can compete down there.”
While the broadcast drew insanely high ratings, with an average of 9.948 million people watching the show in the United States, and 13.1 million watching at the time of James’ announcement, LeBron had to face a lot of criticism for the prolonged wait until his actual decision, as well as the show itself.
The broadcast also caused Cleveland fans to burn jerseys and other LeBron James branded things as well as Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to write a now-infamous letter expressing negative opinions toward James.
It turns out that contrary to popular belief, the idea to have a live broadcast of James’ decision wasn’t initiated by LeBron nor his team around Rich Paul, Leon Rose and Maverick Carter, but came from a regular fan.
It was a basketball fan — Drew from Columbus, Ohio, who made the suggestion to former ESPN employee Bill Simmons for one of his mailbag columns in November, 2009. Simmons loved it. He pestered network executives for months with a handful of e-mails and also mentioned the idea to William “World Wide Wes” Wesley, Carter and Rose during the 2010 NBA All-Star Game in Dallas. Simmons urged them to produce an announcement show called “LeBron’s Decision.”
The idea gained momentum during Game 2 of the 2010 NBA Finals in Los Angeles when Gray apparently told Carter that James should announce his decision live on network television. Carter sold James on the concept and entertainment and media agent Ari Emanuel pitched it to former ESPN president John Skipper, who was ESPN’s head of content at that time.