This issue has been floating around the media for the last couple of weeks, but it didn’t really start bothering me until the other day, when people started seeking insight from Larry King (seriously?). So let me just put it out there: Does it bother you that LeBron James is hijacking the NBA finals?
This is the kind of thing league executives don’t like. I’ve seen situations where teams were asked to hold off announcing the hiring of a coach until a certain time or day so that it wouldn’t upstage a significant league event, like a championship game. (The NFL generally has every other team in handcuffs during Super Bowl week.)
Now, I understand that James can’t stop people from talking about his impending free agency. He is news. But what he can do is not hold nationally televised interviews like the one he taped with King, knowing excerpts were going to be systematically leaked for days leading up to Game 1 of the NBA finals before the actual interview aired (tonight).
And try to follow this: ABC, an NBA rights holder, was so angry that James did an interview with CNN that the network announced throughout the day Thursday that it was going to re-air its month-old “Nightline” interview with James following Game 1 that night. So, in effect, ABC tried to upstage CNN, which upstaged the finals, which is on ABC. Got that?
Again, James can’t control people talking and writing about him. But it’s clear now more than ever that this free agency period, for how ever long it lasts, is a carefully orchestrated Nike production. You doubt that? Here’s something else that just “leaked” out — not that anything really gets leaked unless James wants it to. This comes from AOL Fanhouse’s Sam Amick:
LOS ANGELES — In honor of LeBron James and his apparent insistence on being talked about during the NBA Finals, we interrupt coverage to share some free agency news about the league’s King of hype.
According to a source with first-hand knowledge of James’ plans, the Larry King interview that was shot Tuesday and will air Friday on CNN was only the beginning of his elaborate scheme to draw unprecedented attention to his courting. James, according to the source, is in discussions with Nike to create a new shoe for every visit along his free agent path starting July 1. The shoes would have the date of the visit printed, with James already having scripted his itinerary for the Free Agency Tour 2010.
When asked about the timing of the King interview, NBA commissioner David Stern said, “I don’t have a problem with it. It’s fine. The same way it’s fine to have [President Obama] talk to Marv Albert about where LeBron is going or about our game.”
Stern is being disingenuous. He knows there’s a difference. One is the President talking and the other is James talking. Bottom line is that Stern is not going to publicly call out James, who is probably his biggest revenue producer.
This would be a good time to tell you that Atlanta is not on James’ Nike/free agent itinerary (not that he ever was expected to be). According to Amick, James will visit the New York Knicks first, then New Jersey, then New York. Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers could follow.
See? There I go. Talking about LeBron and not Lakers-Celtics.
Maybe he can just hold interviews with prospective owners and general managers at halftime of finals games at mid-court. Then everybody would be happy.