LeBron James ‘sweepstakes’ are just stupid

Published 12:26 am Sunday, July 4, 2010

When I first started in the newspaper business, my goal was to get to a big, national newspaper as quickly as I could and cover major college or professional sports teams.

But once I started covering the youth, high school and small college sports that small to mid-sized newspapers cover, I noticed a couple of things.

First, I enjoy covering those things because it is part of the fabric that makes up a community like the Miss-Lou, and many people feel a personal connection that just doesn’t come with big-time sports.

And secondly, a lot of what the national sports reporters are covering is just plain stupid.

Take the latest media-driven creation. The so-called “Summer of LeBron.”

Yes, it sounds like a movie, but it really is just NBA superstar LeBron James picking the team with which he wants to sign a free agent contract.

Now, signing contract is a pretty mundane thing. You listen to a few teams make their pitch, choose one and have your agent negotiate a deal that suits both you and the team.

Then, you sign the deal.

But the Summer of LeBron has taken signing free agent contracts to a whole new level.

It’s been well-known that James would opt out of the final year of his current contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for some time now and become an unrestricted free agent, meaning he could sign with any team he wants.

So the hype for where LeBron would go began a long time ago.

In fact, it seemed like the entire NBA playoffs was just a backdrop to the media-driven circus of where LeBron James would sign this summer.

When the Cavaliers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics, the hype got raised even more, even though there were still two rounds of the playoffs left to go.

And when the NBA Finals ended, the free for all began.

It hit a fever pitch as the days ticked closer to July 1, which was the first day players could begin negotiating with teams.

But by then the hype wasn’t just about LeBron anymore.

Several other NBA players had joined the circus.

It’s as if the media thought that it wasn’t worth all the hype just for one player, so they had to pump others up as well.

There are legitimately only two great free agent players on the market this offseason, LeBron and Dwayne Wade.

But you wouldn’t know it by listening to the media reports.

Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudemire are being treated like royalty, despite the fact that none of them have even been to the NBA Finals, much less won a ring.

The hype of Bosh really astonishes me. I know he has played in Toronto for several years, but is he really a great player?

He never pushed his team to a playoff run, and the Raptors haven’t even made the playoffs the past two years.

Yet, there were the reports of Bosh meeting with LeBron and Wade last week, discussing plans to join the Miami Heat and create a super team.

The media breathlessly checks Bosh’s Twitter account each day to see with which teams he met.

Meanwhile, ESPN reporters are following LeBron around and reporting his every move, including his attire when meeting with teams.

I’m half expecting them to tell me what he had for lunch and if he picked his teeth afterward.

It’s all just too much for me. Here’s an idea. Just wait until he signs with a team, and then tell me who he signed with.

But anyway, all of the LeBron hysteria makes me glad I work in little old Natchez, currently reporting about youth baseball and softball.

It might not be the bright lights and big stage, but it certainly has its sanity. Something I’m not sure exists in the national spotlight.