LeBron James is widely regarded as one of the best players to ever play for Cleveland Cavaliers. He controversially left in 2010 to join the Miami Heat, where he won two back-to-back championships. LeBron then returned to the Cavaliers in 2014, leading them to their maiden NBA title in 2016. While the now-Lakers star might arguably be among the top 10 players in NBA history, LeBron James' The Decision temporarily made him a villain in the eyes of the fans, especially supporters of the Cavs.
LeBron James became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2010, after playing seven seasons with the Cavaliers. A hot property ahead of the 2010/11 season, LeBron reportedly had offers from the likes of Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and even the Cavaliers. Ditching the traditional method of just signing a new deal with a different franchise, the LeBron James free agency saga was concluded by him on live television as he announced his next team on a show titled as The Decision. The television special programme was broadcasted live on ESPN.
LeBron James' The Decision revealed that the former No. 1 overall pick would be taking his talents to Miami Heat, a side which had just announced the acquisition of fellow free agents Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. On the plus side, the programme raised a reported $2.5 million for charity and an additional $3.5 million through advertisements, which was also donated to various charities. On the negative side, LeBron James was heavily criticised for turning sports into a reality show and was even accused of trying to keep the spotlight on him.
LeBron James' The Decision was slammed by experts and fans alike who labelled the programme as unnecessary. LeBron was even branded 'unprofessional' by the media.
While LeBron James risked his NBA legacy with The Decision, the move turned out to fruitful for the power forward as he won two NBA titles with Miami Heat, establishing himself as one of the greatest in NBA history. He then went onto redeem himself with the Cavaliers faithful as he rejoined the franchise in 2014 and led them to an NBA title. He left the Cavaliers for the second time in 2018 to join LA Lakers.
The LeBron James free agency saga was explored in the latest episode of ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series. While LeBron James' NBA career panned out fine after the infamous summer of 2010, it is worth noting that LeBron James' The Decision was also an important moment for players entering free agency in the NBA. As per experts, The Decision was influential in taking the reins of free agency from NBA teams and handing them to the players. Despite the controversial reaction, experts believe LeBron James stood for himself during the saga and chose to dictate his story rather than be a puppet for another free agency scramble between teams.
Since LeBron James' The Decision, high profile players like Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward used similar (although not on such a broad scale) means to announce their free-agent moves. Durant and Hayward, both used first-person essays to announce their next moves to the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics respectively. Other players not having the mainstream appeal like LeBron or Durant, have used small scale measures to announce their moves.
In today's age, social media has been a key platform for players to announce their next move. While LeBron might have taken it too far with The Decision, it surely drove a new generation of players to take charge of their free agency sagas.