After much courting by a whole range of teams, LeBron James has made his next decision on where to play, heading to the Los Angeles Lakers on a four-year, $154 million deal. This decision was announced not through ESPN and Jim Gray or Sports Illustrated (but really Chris Broussard, obviously), but through a tweeted press release from the Klutch Sports Group at 8:05 p.m. Eastern Sunday night. (James then followed it up with an Instagram Stories farewell to Cleveland.) But, despite being in the middle of a Sunday Night Baseball broadcast between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, ESPN was relatively quick to jump on this on TV, first putting it on the ticker on repeat and then breaking into the broadcast (around 8:25 p.m. Eastern) to have Zubin Mehenti and Adrian Wojnarowski share the news:
And while there are surely some baseball fans who don’t care at all about LeBron and object to this interruption, this seems like the right move from ESPN. For most free-agent signings (especially in a different sport entirely than what’s being televised), this would be significant overkill, but Woj’s description of this as a “seismic shift in the NBA” feels accurate. James is unquestionably one of the league’s very best players (well, unquestionably unless you’re Skip Bayless), and his shift in teams and conferences matters to pretty much every NBA fan. And this is undoubtedly going to have further knock-on effects, especially when it comes to other top players heading to the Lakers. Or sticking around, as in the case of free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who signed a new deal with the team shortly after LeBron’s announcement:
Free agent guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources tell ESPN.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 2, 2018
In fact, some even brought up that ESPN would probably love to go full coverage on this (perhaps especially with Yankees-Red Sox being a lopsided 6-0 in the third inning):
How badly does ESPN wanna flip from Yankees Red Sox to endless Lebron coverage
— Evan Roberts (@EvanRobertsWFAN) July 2, 2018
Fortunately, that hasn’t happened. But those desperate for endless LeBron coverage can flip over to ESPNEWS, where this has in fact preempted the scheduled Austrian Grand Prix, and where they’ve brought in everyone from Rachel Nichols to Michael Wilbon to Stephen A. Smith. And they have a four-person box!
So, if you want endless televised LeBron analysis and debate, ESPNEWS is the place (at least until the conclusion of Yankees-Red Sox). But it does say quite a bit about the magnitude of LeBron’s signing that it was worth breaking into a broadcast for.
[Matt Clapp on Clippit]