What’s the biggest decision you ever made in your life, and how many people actually cared?
Multiply it by 100 and then double it.
Now triple it.
Whatever it is, it’s only a fraction of the number of people who cared or were affected by LeBron James’ biggest decision.
Not this one.
Not the one before this.
The first one.
This one …
Jim Gray: “The answer to the question everybody wants to know: LeBron, what’s your decision?”
LeBron: “Um … this fall … man, this is very tough … this fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
Jim Gray: “The Miami Heat. That was the conclusion you woke up with this morning?”
LeBron: “That was the conclusion I woke up with this morning.”
To review: That was the conclusion LeBron woke up with that morning.
That morning was July 8, 2010. It was the end of the world as we know it, and Dan Gilbert didn’t feel fine.
OK, that’s a slight — though only slight — exaggeration.
But THAT was the biggest decision LeBron ever made in his basketball life, and everybody cared about it.
Well, almost everybody. I know it was way more than cared about my decision, when selecting the color of my first cell phone, to not go with teal.
So let’s not blow out of proportion the decision LeBron will make Friday. But, implausibly enough, it is big. By rights, it shouldn’t be. Because, in its most stark terms, we’re talking about an NBA player who will turn 34 in December deciding whether or not to exercise his player option with the Cavs for the 2018-19 season.
At 34 most players are cantering down the home stretch of their careers. For many of them, the thrill, and the vertical, are gone.
Connie Hawkins retired at 33. Allen Iverson retired at 34.
Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Larry Bird all retired at 35.
LeBron will play most of next season at 34. He’ll also play all of next season as the best player in the world.
So where he plays matters. A lot. Especially to the Cavaliers, but to all the other teams in the NBA as well, because — this is not a bulletin — there has never been a player like LeBron James.
When LeBron changes teams it affects the competitive balance and the financial balance sheet for every team, every market, every city in the league — and all the people who work for those teams, or in those markets and cities.
Local economies get a boost when LeBron comes to town, an even huger boost when LeBron comes to town and stays in town as a member of the town team.
So his decision Friday is a career, league and economics-altering decision.
What it won’t be, thankfully, is a reprise of that tawdry dog and pony show, characterized by the seamy histrionics leading up to and including his first decision. A decision so epic, so seismic, so tasteless that it will forever be known, with all due derision, as The Decision.
This time, there apparently will be no parade of potentates cavalcading their way into the presence of The King to pitch their riches — artistic, aesthetic and otherwise — to he who tilts all championship scales.
In other words, hold the pomp. Cancel the circumstance. The proceedings are moving to the grownups’ table.
In 2010, the Miami Beach-seeking LeBron was 25.
He was so much older then. He’s younger than that now — 33, to be exact, at, preposterously, the peak of his career, and the height of his powers.
Translation: LeBron is way beyond Jim Gray.
This will be a business decision. A family decision. A quality of life decision.
Not for him — for us.
Unless your idea of a good time is watching Jordan Clarkson jacking up off-balance threes at crunch time.
Once again, Cleveland is caught in the crucible created by a career fork-in-the road for its favorite son/global icon —, and feeling utterly helpless. What are we supposed to do? Can an entire region look Akronward and simultaneously flutter its eyelashes with a seductive “stay hither” plea?
Sorry, that’s all I got.
Instead, we’ll sit and wait. And Friday LeBron will say he’s staying or he’s not. Either way, there are plenty of good Collin Sexton jerseys available.
But this will not be LeBron’s biggest, most off-putting, rage-in-the-streets career decision. We and he have already lived through that. It will also not be LeBron’s most electrifying decision, which was his 2014 return to Cleveland.
This will be his next decision. Nothing more.
After months of anticipatory hand-wringing and tea leaves-reading angst, the big day is finally here.
To quote the great lap dog Jim Gray, “The answer to the question everybody wants to know: LeBron, what’s your decision?”
Contact Jim Ingraham at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.
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