Nearly 10 years after LeBron James announced his decision to play for the Miami Heat on a live show on ESPN titled “The Decision,” the network revealed Saturday that the idea for the show actually came from a fan.
Nov 1, 2019; Dallas, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) in action during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
There have long been rumors that a fan actually came up with the idea, as a person identified only as “Drew” from Columbus, Ohio, proposed the show in a mailbag column published by then-ESPN writer Bill Simmons. That column ran Nov. 26, 2009 — more than seventh months before “The Decision” aired on July 8, 2010.
During “The Decision” broadcast, a then-25-year-old James infamously proclaimed, “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach” — an instant punchline that lives on in sports lore today. In fact, the revelation of Drew from Columbus comes as ESPN prepares to air a look back at “The Decision” on Sunday night.
For a story published Saturday, ESPN reached Drew — 38-year-old Drew Wagner, who is actually a Detroit Pistons fan — and he confirmed the idea was his.
“That was me,” Wagner told ESPN in a phone interview Friday. “I sent that email, it’s posted by Simmons, and then seven months later, it’s the biggest story in sports.”
“I remember everyone was talking about where LeBron would go, and it seemed to me that LeBron should do the same thing these kids do and announce it live on TV,” Wagner added. “I used to enjoy those Simmons mailbags quite a bit, and I thought it would be a fun idea to send it.”
Wagner’s initial pitch had suggested a televised show called “Lebron’s Choice,” while Simmons proposed in his column that it be called “Decision 2010: LeBron’s Verdict.” Simmons emailed ESPN executives about the idea to televise James’ announcement in May of 2010, but did not mention Wagner in that email.
At the time of “The Decision,” James was entering his eighth season in the NBA, having played the first seven in Cleveland. Despite being a six-time All-Star and leading the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007, the Akron, Ohio, native became Public Enemy No. 1 with most Cavs fans after “The Decision.”
James would win two championships in Miami before returning to Cleveland and leading the Cavs to the NBA title in 2016 — the first championship in club history.
He is in his second season with the Los Angeles Lakers after leaving Cleveland as a free agent for a second time following the 2017-18 season.
—Field Level Media