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I’m going to make an assumption that because you are reading this, you are a sports fan. Therefore, you have not spent more than five minutes watching TV, listening to the radio or checking Twitter in the past week without hearing or reading some seemingly meaningless update about LeBron James’ life.
For the second time in four years, LeBron’s free agency has brought the entire sports world to a halt. He’s the first, second and third biggest story from sunrise in South Beach to sunset in Hollywood.
Most of you just want this to be over with. Most of you say you don’t care. After all, isn’t there anything better to talk about?
ESPN, along with other media outlets, has been heavily criticized for wall-to-wall coverage of “The Decision: Part II.” If you take a slice of your Twitter feed to sample the nation’s collective mood on the coverage, it would seem people are fed up with such endless coverage. The media has become the enemy. It’s suddenly our fault for giving James this much attention.
There’s only one problem: He deserves every bit of it.
Here’s the thing about making a television show, or running a news website. You need people to watch your show or read your site if you want to make money. The livelihood of the writers, reporters, editors, producers and so many others depend on that premise. Therefore, it is these outlets’ job to produce the most interesting news at all times (within standard journalistic guidelines, of course).
More people care about LeBron James than anything else, and, to be honest, it’s not even close.
The two biggest stories in sports this weekend (excluding LeBron) were the Wimbledon final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, as well as the announcement of the MLB All-Star rosters.
On Monday night, the All-Star rosters were still a fairly prominent topic of discussion, but they paled in comparison to discussions about an uneventful day for James (outside of two pedestrian signings made by the Heat –€“ Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger).
So why was LeBron still that much bigger of a story than the All-Stars –€“ and everything else?
Here’s one number that will blow your mind.
LeBron has 13.4 million Twitter followers.
The entire collection of MLB All-Stars, a grand total of 66 players so far, have 7.01 million Twitter followers COMBINED.
That is so unbelievable I had to add it all up twice.
If you want an even more ridiculous gap, the number of followers the AL and NL starting lineups have combined is 2.69 million.
James has almost FIVE TIMES as many followers as the best baseball players in the world, as chosen by the fans, have collectively.
It’s undeniable: James is the most popular athlete in America by an unthinkable margin. ESPN, FOX Sports 1, and every other sports media outlet in the country have every right to cover his free agency like hawks.
We are in virtually uncharted territory with this saga. Other than The Decision: Part I, there’s only been one other time in the history of sports where the undisputed best player in his respective sport has been an unrestricted free agent. That was Alex Rodriguez in 2000. That episode came before Twitter and the 24-hour era of SportsCenter, though. We’re in a completely new era of media today.
Do not underestimate the importance of this moment, either.
This is a landmark moment in the history of the NBA, especially if James decides to leave. He is holding the fate of at least four Hall-of-Fame players in the palm of his giant hand.
It won’t be long before this is all over again and we can go back to our normal mid-July routine of spending time with our wives and girlfriends until football season mercifully arrives.
But in the meantime, if you want us to stop talking about LeBron, you’re out of luck. For a few more days, the King is … well, king.
Follow Josh on Twitter @JoshParcell