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LeBron James’ announcement in 2010 that he would leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in free agency during a televised special titled “The Decision” stands as one of the most important stories in American sport in this century.
Ten years later, word has spread that a Detroit Pistons fan mail question to then-ESPN writer Bill Simmons served as inspiration for the show.
According to ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr., Drew Wagner emailed the following question to Simmons:
“What if LeBron announces that it will pick its 2010-11 team live on ABC on a certain date for a show called ‘LeBron’s Choice? What kind of crazy ratings would they get?”
Simmons did more than answer the question, however, according to Van Natta:
“On the Dallas All-Star Weekend in February 2010, Simmons launched the idea of ’LeBron’s Decision’ to James’ business partner, Maverick Carter; James’s agent at the time, Leon Rose; and the advisor James, William “World Wide Wes” Wesley. Simmons met Rose and Wesley. ” They both loved it, “Simmons later wrote in an email.” I mean, I LOVED it. “That weekend, Simmons also enthusiastically launched the idea to several senior ESPN executives.
“Simmons released two ideas to his bosses: a 90-minute documentary that followed LeBron on his free-agency recruiting tour called ‘The Courting of the King,’ followed by ‘LeBron’s Decision,’ where he would choose his new team in a live show, both will be broadcast on ABC. “
The ball really started rolling in June when Carter spoke to Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel and broadcaster Jim Gray, who was the host of the show.
One thing led to another, and then ESPN President John Skipper gave James and Carter an hour of scheduling for July 8. In return, the The LeBron James Family Foundation donated $ 2 million to the national Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
As for Wagner, the 38-year-old Detroit Pistons fan talked to Van Natta about his idea of being the inspiration for the show.
“I remember everyone talking about where LeBron would go, and it seemed to me that LeBron should do the same thing these kids do and advertise it live on TV. I used to really enjoy those Simmons mailbags, and I thought that it would be a fun idea to send it. “
Wagner didn’t know his idea was behind “The Decision” until Friday, when national radio shows discussed some of the revelations in an upcoming yesackstory episode of the show. Beforehand, he thought it was a “strange coincidence. “
“I don’t know how those things work,” Wagner told ESPN.
“I always thought that maybe I had started it on some kind of team … I don’t think I deserve anything or any credit. I’m sure a lot of people could have thought of that.” idea and I put the ball in gear. I’m also pretty sure some people would want to shoot the guy who came up with the idea. “
Cavaliers fans were outraged when James said he was bringing his talents to South Beach, but was thrilled four years later when he returned to Cleveland. He then led the Cavs to four consecutive NBA Finals, winning one in 2016.