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Labron and ESPN

I seem to be drawn to unseemly spectacles so, yes, I will tune in at 9 pm to watch the Lebron James/ESPN one-hour special on his decision about what city he will choose to go make a zillion dollars with.

Seven years in the NBA and the guy has been to the finals once and never a champion. This looks to me to be the move of a great big ego wrapped in a charity (The Boy’s and Girl’s clubs of America) to escalate the brand of one Lebron James.

And am I being too prissy or traditional or something to be slightly uncomfortable with the relationship here between Lebron and ESPN? I heard this morning on NPR that Lebron has been allowed to choose all but one of the sponsors of the show and also has had a hand in choosing who will interview him following the announcement.

I know this is a sports/entertainment story. But isn’t it also a news story? Aren’t reporters and commentators and hosts at ESPN sort of in the news business?

To be honest, I love ESPN. I love their programming and I like them as a business. They’re cocky and brash and creative and entertaining. If I was in one of their executive suites today as an ESPN employee (and I know more than one of their executives), I’d probably be high-fiving and fist-bumping with the rest of them because it’s a hell of a broadcast coup.

But I don’t work for ESPN and I can see the forest for the trees and the active merging of a media company’s business interests with an athlete’s business interests seems…like uncomfortable new ground.

What happens when an NBA star who has actually won a championship goes on the free agent market- like Kobe Bryant? Will he be able to cut a deal with all the major broadcast networks for a simultaneous announcement not unlike a Presidential news conference? Will ESPN start bidding for the announcement TV rights of other famous free agent athletes?

But even as I watch uncomfortably, I will, nonetheless, still be watching. My guess is that ESPN will welcome my viewership tonight regardless of my ethical sensitivities.

  1. Matt
    July 9, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    He made it to the finals in 2007. Just a correction.

  2. July 18, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    You spelled LeBron wrong. But still, good blog post.

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