Game Time: LeBron James: The Decision -- You Suck, ESPN

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LeBron is Cleveland's new "Cuyahoga River on fire"
"It's been a real humbling experience to be in this position." -- LeBron James on his self-requested, one hour made-for-LeBron TV special on ESPN

If you lived in Houston at the time, you remember September 13, 2008. That was the morning after Hurricane Ike. I remember going outside for the first time that morning. There was literally no one on the roads. Westheimer was empty. Trees, signs, entire walls of buildings were strewn about. There were no lights on anywhere and the sky still looked like grim, gray death amidst a steady drizzle. It wasn't the end of the world, but you could see it from there and you wondered how long it would take to put everything back together again.

That's Cleveland this morning.

Sure, nobody died (that we know of), the lights all came on, and I'll assume that rush hour traffic (even for a Friday) was formidable. But a big chunk of Cleveland died last night, and unfortunately LeBron James and ESPN didn't let it die peacefully with its pride or dignity intact.

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The pilot for Cleveland Vice didn't get picked up

Last night, LeBron James chose to move on. After seven seasons of playing professional basketball in his de facto hometown of Cleveland, LeBron decided to move south and play for the Miami Heat. On the surface, no harm, no foul. Even if it's your hometown, free agency is in place to give players the right to change two things -- tax brackets and area codes.

However, free agency was not put in place to callously humiliate the city that supported you through your formative years. Despite all evidence last night to the contrary, LeBron said himself that Cleveland saw him grow from "an 18-year-old kid to a 25-year-old man." Sorry, LeBron, but after watching you stumble your way through your ESPN after-school special last night, the best I can concede is that you grew into a "bigger, way more entitled 25-year-old kid."

Forget about the fact that this overly friendly collusion between LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris "Turtle" Bosh has the juvenile, junior-high school aura of LeBron getting tired of sitting in the cafeteria with the math dorks like Anderson Varajeo and Mo Williams, instead opting to go finally sit with the cool kids like D-Wade and C-Bosh.

Forget about the fact that when he finally answered the question of where he was going to play next season (and in LeBron's defense, even he probably didn't think Jim Gray would take ten extra minutes asking such hard hitting questions like "Do you need to sleep on it some more?" I mean, Jim Gray? Really?) that LeBron's answer led off not with "Miami Heat" or "the city of Miami," but instead with "South Beach."

Forget about all of those things. The one-hour LeBron special on ESPN unequivocally proved one thing. LeBron James is mean. He's a bad person, and disguising his quest for hero worship as a charity event only makes him worse.

Any way you slice it, in the end LeBron: The Decision evolved into, above all else, a one-hour public flogging of the city of Cleveland. The only thing missing was footage of Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert tied to a wooden post a la William Wallace in Braveheart, walked down A1A in Miami and allowing all of the Heat fans to throw garbage at him. (Ironically, based on the vitriol spewed forth in his letter to the Cavs fan base last night, Gilbert would have probably been as vigilant as Wallace if Heat fans had tried to kill him, perhaps even screaming "FREEEEDOM" -- or another F-word -- at LeBron.)

It was a collective kick in Cleveland's nuts that was as undeserved as it was nauseating, LeBron swinging a Miami Heat gym sock full of quarters to the grill of half a million Cavs fans and then handing the sock over to Sportscenter at 10 p.m. Eastern Time, and telling them to go ahead and take a whack. LeBron never outwardly said words that trashed Cleveland; he didn't have to. Televising the celebration of his exit was enough.

Thursday night was more inauguration than it was announcement. What could have been accomplished in a tweet, a published statement, or a brief radio interview was a one-hour atomic wedgie on the 216 area code wrapped in a LeBron infomercial disguised as a charitable endeavor for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America in front of a room full of boys and girls in Greenwich, CT who may or may not have driven to and from the event in their own BMW's.

LeBron did interviews with three different sets of ESPN talking heads in an hour -- a total collection of roughly 50 questions of which 45 had the same answer (something about "just want to win titles" and "getting better every day",,,blah blah blah be dee blah) and of which exactly none were "Why did you decide to go on television and crush the very souls of the fans in the city that has adored you since you were a precocious teenager, right?"

He literally said the process was "everything he thought it would be and more" three times in 56 seconds. I don't even know what that means. He told Cleveland everything short of "It's not you, it's me" and Stuart Scott called him "King" roughly a dozen times in between Stu bragging about playing H-O-R-S-E with Obama and checking LeBron's rectum to see what the "King" ate for breakfast.

In short, it was a travesty, a trainwreck, and the final nail in the coffin of whatever shred of credibility as a balanced news organization ESPN may have had left. A free-agency journey that was begging for a million questions about betrayal, about collusion, about Delonte West, about open disregard for the emotions of his hometown fans turned into a one-hour fluffing by Jim Gray with the hot tag to Michael Wilbon who then allowed Stuart Scott to massage the King's inner thighs for the rest of the show.


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