On Missing Nights in Vegas

by Ryan

Everyone seems to be done with LeBron James for the summer, but I’m still ridiculously fascinated by the James Saga. Forget the contract or how well the Triumvirate is going to do in Miami. Instead, what is so interesting to me is how the media has reacted to James, and how the talking points are slowly changing for fans. Rich and I have noted on past podcasts that the climate around James has changed since the Cavs fell flat in the playoffs, but after the free agency buildup it’s moved into a completely different world.

Here’s my theory about James: for the longest time he has had little to no resistance in anything he has done. James is completely disconnected from reality because he’s A) a multi-millionaire, B) surrounded by people who are his peers emotionally. His management has grown up with him, they are best friends; and so it’s almost impossible to get any sort of grounded criticism.

This is bound to create problems, especially when you are an international superstar suddenly left to your own devices. It also means that, given the current climate of opinions, James is going to start seeing a level of criticism that rarely occured in his first seven years as aaaaaand STOP. HAMMER TIME:

Yeah, things like that are a pretty new when it comes to King James. It’s something we have mentioned and it still remains true: how the media reacts to James now is going to be very, very interesting. It’s clear there is no one concrete opinion here, but one must assume things are going to be different for a lot of people.

Enter the infamous ESPN article. Controversy aside, I think it’s absolutely necessary you read the ESPN story you’re not supposed to see if only because it’s completely different from what we’ve seen before.

What’s incredible about the story is that it’s really not all that damning: he throws a big party and is near scantily-clad women, then sings along to some rap songs. There was no dead hooker burried in a shallow desert grave, and he didn’t blow a grand or two at the penny slots; athletes have done much worse in Vegas.

Still, it’s easy to see what the problem is: we see too much. The piece shows LeBron as an immature little kid, practicing jump shots in a casino as his crew follows close behind. It’s not blatant criticism, but the intent is there. It’s why Markasi quoted those exact song lyrics, and why he closed the article the way he did.

And that’s completely okay. In fact, I thought that the article was insightful and well-written, but that’s exactly why it got killed. It is showing us something that’s closer to the real LeBron, not the Nike product or the LeBron image we all know. We’re not getting the truth, but it’s closer to the half-truth we get sold. It’s difference is exactly the problem, despite the fact that it’s not really a problem at all.

What is interesting moving forward is one of two things. First of all, it will be interesting to see how ESPN covers LeBron moving forward. They took a huge credibility hit when going along with the charade that was The Decision, and killing a “negative” article about James screams all sorts of journalistic integrity conflicts. That will be an ongoing problem with no real answer, but what is most interesting to me is just how the rest of the media will handle James.

If there is anyone who will learn something from this mess it is James and his brain trust: they have to know more things like this will be coming. The new battle is between the media and LeBron’s group: who is allowed to access what, and what will they be talking about if they get on the inside?