All That and a Bag of Mail: LeBron Nails the Decision Part Two

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Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James yells during the first overtime period of an NBA Eastern Conference final basketball game against the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., Thursday, May 31, 2007. James scored 48 points in the Cavaliers 109-107 double-overtime win. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Paul Sancya AP

This time LeBron James got his decision absolutely perfect. After turning social media, fans, and the sports media into pretzels over the past couple of weeks, LeBron released a 100% perfect column in his own words explaining why he was returning home to Cleveland. I’d encourage all of you to go read it now.  It’s perfectly done, the exact opposite of the first decision.

One of the things that LeBron doesn’t get enough credit for is his ability to navigate the road from child prodigy to greatest in the world at his chosen profession without falling apart. The best analogies for LeBron have never been from the world of sports, they’re from Hollywood. How often do you a see a child star go bad? LeBron could have easily Lohan’ed himself when he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at a young age, it would have been all too easy to succumb to the temptations of stardom, spiral into trouble, and not get better at his craft. But he’s never really faltered in the public eye. In an age when felony charges and arrests often orbit our most famous sports stars, LeBron’s worst move in his career is not announcing his first free agency decision in a manner we would have preferred. It’s trendy to hate LeBron, but it’s also lazy.  

Our beaver pelt trader of the week is LeBron James. 

Now on to the mailbag. 

DJ writes:

“So LeBron had his two best friends opt out and then still left the Heat? Bosh is going to get paid but if you’re Wade are you pissed? This seems like something people are missing. PS that “I’m coming home” song is going to be played a lot get use to it.”

First, they’re not his two best friends. They’re his two best friends that he works with. That’s different. LeBron’s best friends are the guys he grew up with in Akron. None of those guys play basketball for a living, but they do manage LeBron’s image. Having said that, that’s why I didn’t buy into the idea that LeBron was going back to Miami with a max contract. If he’d done that, he would have been taking money from Bosh and Wade’s pocket and putting it in his own. That’s fine with free agency, but he got both of those guys to opt out of their existing contracts. As you mentioned, Bosh will be fine — likely headed to Houston for more money — but if the Heat really wanted to screw Dwyane Wade, they could. 

What’s Wade’s value on the open market right now? At most ten million a year, right? He opted out of over twenty million a year guaranteed. If he received his fair market value, it would be much less than that. The Heat have a real decision to make now because they will have a ton of cap space. Do they sign Wade back for that two year deal at max money, allow him to play on a crappy team, and just bide their time to rebuild, or do they sign him to a longer term deal that doesn’t cost as much upfront but hamstrings them for years to come with dying cap space on a player with nothing else? You know Dwyane Wade’s like, “About that opt out…”

Speaking of bad decision, how about John Calipari turning down $80 million to coach the Cavs? Now that they’ve got LeBron locked and loaded this becomes one of the top jobs in basketball history. Sure, Cal’s got a talented college team, but the amount of attention Kentucky basketball will receive compared to the Cavs is like comparing a lake to the Pacific Ocean, no contest. Attention is like Cal’s oxygen, he thrives on it.  

Rhett W. writes:

“I know you’re getting a ton of LeBron questions, but the really interesting part in all this is that have we ever had an athlete go from loved, to hated and back to loved again in such a short time? We’re talking 4-5 years for that cycle. For how much hate LeBron received in Miami, he’s going to receive just as much love and respect (or more) in Cleveland now. Can you imagine if this was a man and wife getting married, divorced and re-married in that same time span? Crazy.”

It’s a good point, nothing lasts today. We all have such short memories. But there are many better examples of this than LeBron. Kobe Bryant was charged with rape. It took him much less than four years to rebound from that. Marv Albert was charged with sexual assault after biting a woman while wearing panties and he calls NBA games now. Think about entertainment, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube made their names as a members of NWA, now they’re cuddly, loveable figures. How about Eddie Murphy? Go back and watch “Delirious” and “Raw.” Now Murphy’s doing kid voices in animated movies. Robert Downey, Jr. was arrested for sneaking into people’s houses naked. Now he’s one of the best actors of his generation. The list goes on and on in entertainment. 

Look at college football, Bobby Petrino wrecked his motorcycle while driving it with his mistress on the back — a mistress that he hired to work in the football offices — lied about the wreck to his boss, got fired once everything went public; he takes over Western Kentucky after less than a year and less than two years later he’s the head coach at Louisville. If Will Muschamp gets fired, guess who might be the next head coach at Florida? Petrino. And Gator fans would be thrilled to get him. 

These are all celebrities, but no matter who you are, nothing lasts today. There are just too many new stories constantly flying across our screens. We all have the memory of a goldfish. Plus, and this is true no matter what you do — so long as your talent exceeds your problems you will never be unemployed for long.  

Davis W. writes:

“If LeBron James wins a championship in the next few years as a Cleveland Cavalier after his already legendary letter, where would these last few years and the ones to come, rank amongst the greatest sports stories of all-time?”

Greatest sports stories of all-time is a bit of a misnomer, since it typically means greatest stories that you can remember happening. I’m 35, older than a bunch of you, younger than some of you who read the mailbag so my list will be different than yours. Plus, what does “greatest” mean? If greatest just means “biggest,” as opposed to “best” then the greatest sports story of my life so far was OJ Simpson’s murder trial. Clearly, that’s not a positive story, but it’s by far the biggest sports story of my life. LeBron winning a title in Cleveland wouldn’t even scratch the surface. But if you mean “greatest” for “best,” it’s way up there, definitely top ten, maybe top five. Of course, you have to be careful with stories that seem great and later blow up upon inspection. Lance Armstrong winning all those Tour de Frances after beating cancer is a perfect example. It seemed like one of the greatest stories ever until we all found out he was cheating.

I’ll have to think on this more, but, no doubt, LeBron has put himself in position to rocket up the sports story ranks.

In fact, which is better for his brand — LeBron wins a third straight title this year with Miami or LeBron loses to the Spurs, leaves the Heat, and returns to Cleveland in the perfect way? Probably the latter, right?

And don’t even get me started on how lucky the people of Cleveland are to have LeBron James and Johnny Manziel both arrive in their city in less than three months. This is one of the greatest gifts in the history of American sports. Whoever the top sports talk radio guy in Cleveland is just became a multi-millionaire several times over.  

Tyler writes:

“My friends and I are debating what percent of the US population is discussing the LeBron to Cleveland news. Someone threw out 17% and we have been going back and fourth about that figure. Any input or guess about what percent of the US population discussed the LeBron free agency news?”

I’d say thirty percent of all people in America will watch, discuss, or comment on LeBron in some fashion today. That would be over one hundred million people. Sure, there are a ton of people who don’t care about sports at all — and that’s always a majority — but with the rise of social media and the desire of everyone to be involved in the big story of the day — I think thirty percent is fair. That’s a bit less than would watch the Super Bowl.

So that would be my best guess.   

DM Dodson writes:

“Dear Clay:

I currently have Direct TV, but will switch to either Comcast (assuming they finalize the agreement) or Dish if Direct TV decides against carrying the SEC Network. I don’t want to switch if Direct TV is going to come through because changing providers is a pain (missing work for the 4-hour service window, shipping my Direct TV equipment back, etc.) and I’m generally happy with their service over the past 10 years. At the same time, I don’t want to wait too long and then not be able to get the new cable provider in place before the college football season starts. So my questions is, what drop-dead-date would you be willing to wait for Direct TV to announce they have a definitive agreement to carry the SEC Network before cancelling and calling Comcast or Dish? Thanks!”

I would set a drop-dead deadline of August 14th, the day the channel debuts. If DirecTV doesn’t have the SEC Network at launch, it’s hard for me to believe that it will have it before the games actually kick off. Once the season actually starts I think the chances of DirecTV relenting becomes very low. At that point you will have already gotten crushed for months, why change your position after people have already bailed on your service?

I really believe that just about every provider save DirecTV will have the SEC Network at launch. That’s why I’m telling you guys who have DirecTV and want to have the SEC Network as well to be aware that might mean an awful lot of trips to buddies houses or the sports bar to watch your favorite teams play. I’d make the switch if I had DirecTV. Sure, I could be wrong on this, but I think DirecTV not having the SEC Network this year is a very real threat.  

Kurt Z. writes:

“I’ve always wondered, what’s social media like as a celebrity? You have 102k+ followers on twitter as I write this, so how do you handle the endless mentions you obviously get on Twitter? Do you set aside an hour a day & just go through them all or do you always have Twitter open? Do you turn alerts off on your phone or do they just keep going off. There are so many that just beg famous people for RT’s and follows and such, so I was just curious if you could at least shed some light on how the other half lives on social media?”

First, I’m not a celebrity. So I sit around having the same conversations about famous people as you guys do. For instance, last night we were sitting in the green room waiting to film Fox Sports Live debating how often LeBron checks his mentions. Does he ever? What does it look like? It has to be almost impossible to keep up with. Just a constant roll of mentions like a slot machine that never stops. He can’t ever read it, it’s like trying to drink from a firehose.  

I try and read just about everything that’s sent to me — and that will be thousands of interactions a day — because 95% of you are pretty awesome on Twitter. Now, I don’t get notification on favorites or retweets and my phone isn’t set up to buzz every time I get a mention, but I monitor Twitter throughout the day. You guys send me great tips, make funny jokes, say that you enjoy the site or the radio show. Sure, I retweet the hate, but that’s primarily because I think it’s more entertaining. If I just retweeted the praise, it would get annoying to you guys. Having said that, I can’t do some things, for instance, I can’t give people restaurant recommendations all the time. I get asked about restaurants ALL THE TIME on Twitter. You’d be amazed how often that happens. Hotels, too. I could spend the entire day just telling people where to eat and which hotels to stay in. There’s also the people who want to debate me. Yes, my dream come true, a 140 character debate that only you see. Worst of all is people who get in debates with my name still attached to it. Dudes, I don’t care about your debate. You’re clogging up my timeline. If someone doesn’t respond to you, take them out of the mention list and continue your Twitter battle elsewhere.

I also feel bad about people who are asking for RTs for whatever reasons. I don’t do them. Generally because it clogs up your timeline and because it isn’t very beneficial to the people seeking the RT. Odds are if you’re trying to raise money for something, a RT from me isn’t going to help. Now if I’m actually involved in a fundraiser that’s different. But if a random Missouri high school is doing a car wash, a RT from me isn’t going to help you. I also try and respond to all sorts of questions when I have time. So if you scroll through my timeline you might see nine or ten responses in a row. That’s generally when I’m sitting waiting for a flight to board and am trying to catch up with mentions or a time like that. I get asked to give birthday wishes, get asked about books or TV show, my gambling picks, occasionally I have the time to give bar or restaurant recs, basically I’m trying to interact with y’all as much as possible; but I also have to hop out of the Twitter stream occasionally to look up and see what’s going on in the real world. As popular as Twitter can be, it’s often an echo chamber that isn’t that reflective or real life.     

I hope I never get to the point where I can’t read all of your mentions. Even the people calling me gay or sexist or racist or homophobic or a liberal or a conservative or a gay Muslim. It’s all pretty damn entertaining. I’m thankful every day for my job because I can’t imagine a better one in the entire country. Hopefully that comes through. 

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.