There's another important American anniversary to celebrate this week, and one that we should all be congratulated for enduring together: a year ago this Friday, July 8, LeBron James settled into a director's chair at a Greenwich Boys & Girls Club and told Jim Gray about biting his fingernails. He also announced that he would take his talents to South Beach for the 2010-2011 season.
Thanks to Those Guys Have All The Fun, we've learned a few things about The Decision in the past few months. Namely, we've learned that Jim Gray will boldly and proudly take responsibility for the orgy of self-interest it turned out to be ("I worked for this. I created this. I came up with the concept"). Last week, though, a few new miserable characters emerged when Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe spoke to some of the formerly anonymous humans who worked behind-the-scenes to make it all happen. It turns out that they, too, are bold and proud and also lack even a fragment of self-awareness. And strangely enough, they all want credit for ESPN's train wreck.
The star of the show here is Mark Dowley, a former partner at Ari Emanuel's William Morris Endeavor Agency and now an executive VP at Under Armour. Dowley lives in Greenwich, and was responsible for hosting James before and after the taping and for arranging the deal with the local Boys & Girls Club. Dowley comes across as one of those rich men who have never paused for a moment of self-reflection in their lives. Dowley, we learn, also wants to take credit for the "good deed" he helped put together. Dowley is the perfect representative for the mindsets required to come up with something like The Decision. Here's a sampling of his finest moments:
Ari Emanuel called me and said, "What do you think of the idea of doing the show?" And I really liked it. I like the whole notion of the emancipation of talent.
I had a private plane in a hangar in White Plains, N.Y.
Ah, the dependable private jet boast. Are all people with private jets awful? Lowe also spoke to Steve O'Neill, CEO of a private jet company, who boasts that he "was probably the only person at CitationAir who knew what was going on every step of the way." He also plans on writing a book, and in it, The Decision "won't even get a paragraph. OK, maybe one, but not two. We fly well-known people every single day."
Verdict: Yes, they're awful. But back to Dowley:
And then Kanye West showed up. He and LeBron are pretty close friends. He called my office and just said he wanted to stop by. The office gave him my address, and he just stopped in.
I was very angry. I don't remember who it was that said it. When I get pissed off at someone, I don't remember their name.
We went back to my house after the show, had a beer, and Kanye and LeBron talked for a while. We then went to the airplane hangar at White Plains.
But we came up with an experiment. I'm fond of experimenting, and I'm proud of doing something different.
We got a lot of grief for it. A good deed never goes unpunished, you know?