LeBron James

LeBron James Named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year

Sports Illustrated has announced that basketball star LeBron James has been named the magazine’s Sportsman of Year.

James is the seventh basketball star to be named Sportsman of the Year, following in the footsteps of Dwayne Wade (’06); Tim Duncan and David Robinson (’03), Michael Jordan (1991), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1985) and Bill Russell (1968).

James led the Miami Heat to the NBA title this past season and also led the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team to gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

“This year there was an endless list of high-quality possibilities,” said Time Inc. Sports Group Editor Paul Fichtenbaum. “But LeBron’s stirring accomplishments on and off the court were impossible to ignore. He showed tremendous heart during times of adversity, and he delivered with relentless determination. Equally as impressive, although much less heralded, was his development of a hands-on educational program in an Akron, Ohio, school district which will have a profound and long-lasting impact on its students. His accomplishments embody the finest traditions of this award.”


Ombudsman Calls ESPN’s “The Decision” The Wrong One

Sports media followers have been waiting for ESPN Ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer to chime in on the WWL’s handling of “The Decision”, the made for TV special of the announcement of where LeBron James will play basketball this fall.

The wait is over.  Read his column here.  Ohlmeyer is highly critical of those in charge in Bristol.  Here are some of the highlights…

On ESPN’s claim that it did not “pay” for the LeBron story:

But if you let the subject sell an hour’s worth of inventory, then the program needs to be an hour — and that’s an editorial acquiescence, not an editorial decision.

No matter how convoluted the intellectual gymnastics, ESPN “paid” for the exclusive access to a news story. For the network, there is quantifiable revenue associated with the Thursday 9-10 p.m. programming hour. That revenue was forgone, yielded in exchange for the exclusive.

On ESPN’s transparency problem during the telecast:

As to transparency, ESPN failed miserably where it mattered most. Although there was no attempt to hide the Gray involvement or the inventory arrangement leading up to the broadcast, the viewers were not explicitly told at the most appropriate moments that conflicts existed. Before turning from the Bristol set to Gray, ESPN should have advised viewers that Gray had been selected by James’ team to do the interview.

At the top of the show, or leading into the first commercial break, the network had an obligation to make viewers clearly aware that the spots they would be watching had been sold by James, with the money targeted for charity. ESPN’s disclosure requirement is to the viewers of that very show, not simply to other media (through promotional interviews or news releases) or to viewers of other programs. ESPN should never have traded inventory for access or allowed a subject to select his inquisitor, and if that meant losing the exclusive, so be it.

On the ESPN hype machine leading up and following “The Decision”:

As the hours wore on, it was impossible not to ponder: Did the news value of James’ decision really merit such prolonged speculation, dissection, explanation, argumentation and analysis? Competent television producers can create infinite hours out of whole cloth, and that was certainly the case here. But those “SportsCenter” fans looking for other sports coverage? Too bad. An average hour of the network’s showcase contains 45 minutes of programming to cover the entire day in the world of sports. These prized minutes normally are doled out meticulously, attempting to satisfy the interests of a broad-based sports audience at the same time as servicing the fanatic. As “The Decision” approached, “SportsCenter” made an abrupt adjustment.

On Wednesday night’s 6 and 11 p.m. editions of “SportsCenter,” James’ quest corralled almost a quarter of the show. On Thursday at 11 a.m., it monopolized almost half. And as the 6 p.m. show rolled around, it was “All LeBron, All The Time.” In the two-hour “SportsCenter” that followed “The Decision,” the non-NBA sports fan was virtually ignored, as were the 12 baseball games scheduled for that night, the World Cup semifinals and everything else in sports — including golfer Paul Goydos’ phenomenal 59.

On the perception of ESPN going forward:

What’s the long-term impact of “The Decision”? Clearly, the hype and excess surrounding James’ choice was not ESPN’s crime alone. Many of the same media participants that helped turn it into a quasi-national obsession were among some of the program’s sternest critics. Many in Bristol tend to slough off media criticism, minimizing it because they feel ESPN wears an enormous bull’s-eye — the network is Goliath to an army of Davids who love to play Whac-A-Mole at ESPN’s expense. Maybe that’s the case and maybe not, but there are certainly times when criticism is justified — and this was one of them.

Spot on Don.

Sports Media Weekly Podcst #40- Barry Horn, Dallas Morning News

Sports Media Weekly After a week off we are back for another edition of the Sports Media Weekly Podcast.

Ken Fang at Fang’s Bites and I are pleased to be joined, for the entire episode, by Barry Horn, Sports Media Columnist for the Dallas Morning News.

The big story on the table, of course, was “The Decision”.  The three of us take a look at how the event was handled by all parties and the dangerous precedent it may set for the future.  Can you say Brett Favre?

We also talk about ESPN’s ratings success for the World Cup and the declining numbers for Fox and ESPN for the MLB All-Star festivities.

We also spend some time with Barry talking about the sports media landscape in Dallas.  Specifically, how the impact ESPN Dallas has on the media scene and how the FSN Southwest covered the incident last week where a fan fell from a top deck of the Ballpark at Arlington.

We also ask Barry about the similarities between Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones and the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Cheers to ESPN For Getting The Exclusive, Jeers For Its Execution

Those of you who have followed what I’ve written here at SMJ know that I’ve defended ESPN for its decisions in programming its channels as it sees fit.  I also have little problem with how the WWL sells segments on Sports Center to the highest bidder.  They are in the business to make money.

So it should be no surprise that I had no problem with how ESPN landed the exclusive to air the choice of where LeBron James will play basketball beginning this fall.  It is a journalistic coup.  Any other media outlet would have jumped at the chance to get that exclusive.  Critics should stop bashing ESPN for doing its job in getting the jump on a big story.

With that said, how ESPN handled its coverage of “The Decision” seems to lead to the conclusion that there is a disconnect between the news and publicity departments in Bristol.

Once it was announced it would provide exclusive coverage of LeBron’s announcement, it became apparent that the ESPN spin machine would take over nearly all programming of the network.  From the special “LeBron” ticker, the lower third bug promoting “The Decision”at 9pm ET, to the nauseating domination the story carried on SportsCenter, all ESPN cared about was its coverage of the future of a highly talented Ohio state high school basketball champion.  There could have been twin no hitters thrown in Major League Baseball and it still would have been relegated to the fifth biggest story at best.

I’m a firm believer that if you have an exclusive, the fact that you have it is publicity enough.  There is no reason to bombard your viewers with endless promotion.

This episode also justifies my contention that six hours of live SportsCenters from 9am-3pm ET is a total waste of programming time.  I have never been a fan of this move, and yesterday proved I was right.

Now to “The Decision” special itself.  The “one hour” special turned out to be a one hour, 13 minutes special.  It took ESPN 22 minutes to go to Jim Gray to get LeBron’s decision.  Then Gray wasted all our time by asking whether LeBron bites his nails.  Really?

The extended delay of LeBron’s decision reminds me of how mad I get here in the northeast when a snowstorm is forecast and the local newscast leads the show by saying, “A snowstorm is coming.  Stay tuned to find out when it will start and how much snow we can expect.”  20 minutes later, we find out the storm will begin at 8am and dump a foot of snow.  What a slap in the face to the viewer.  Tell me what we need to know NOW and then follow with questions and analysis.

ESPN should be proud that it was able to get the LeBron exclusive.  It should be embarrassed of how it handled its execution.