NBA hoopla shows good and bad of sports media

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service | Boulder Weekly

MIAMI — NBA free agency has showcased everything that’s good and everything that’s not about the new era of sports media.

There was a lot to like: The immediacy. The breadth and depth of information. Several stories were dead on, including Chris Broussard reporting on ESPN that Chris Bosh would join the Heat and LeBron James likely would, too.

But there was some misinformation that further
erodes the public’s trust. And throughout June, ESPN’s coverage of
James was over-the-top, dominated by speculation and guesswork in the
absence of hard news.

If ESPN had not agreed to James’ demands to sell ad
inventory during his 60-minute special Thursday — with the money going
to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America — some other network assuredly would have. So don’t blame ESPN for accepting James’ terms.

But you can blame ESPN for dragging out Thursday’s announcement. James didn’t disclose he would play for the Heat until 9:27 p.m., after ESPN assured Wednesday that he would reveal the team between 9:10 and 9:15 p.m.

And shame on Jim Gray and ESPN for asking 16 questions — 16! — before asking James the only one on anybody’s mind: Which team will you play for?

The answers to those questions would have been more
substantive, more meaningful, if he had revealed the winning team
first. Remember, ESPN executive Norby Williamson said
the network had editorial control over the show except for the presence
of Gray, who was there because Maverick Carter, James’ business
partner, wanted him there.

And was there really a need for a three-hour,
James-heavy SportsCenter before the announcement? ESPN gave James his
own entry on ESPN’s crawl the past week, even when news didn’t warrant
it.

“It takes 15 seconds to say, ‘I’ve decided to stay in Cleveland,’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy told Orlando reporters Wednesday. “But we’ve got 59 minutes and 45 seconds to what? Promote LeBron James? As if we don’t do that enough… . You don’t hear Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant talking about their brand.”

Van Gundy offered dead-on perspective on the circus:
“It’s gotten ridiculous. It’s almost like a parody of itself. If Wade
just comes right out and says, ‘I’m going back to Miami,’
you can’t get a film crew to follow him around to do that. Bosh had to
make it look like he considered all these teams so there would be some
suspense and interest.”

One viewer’s media scorecard of how free agency shook out:

—Biggest winners: 1) Stephen A. Smith.
Yes, he’s loud. Yes, he scowls as if a kid had egged his house. But
give the man credit. He nailed two weeks ago that James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade would play for the Heat. 2) ESPN’s Broussard; he was the first to report Bosh would join Wade in Miami and reported all day Thursday that the Heat was the front-runner for James. 3) New York Newsday’s Alan Hahn, who joined Broussard early Thursday in saying James would join the Heat and had the scoop on the site for the announcement (Greenwich, Conn.).

—Biggest loser: The New York Times, which played up its story two weeks ago in which a league source said James-to-Chicago was a done deal.

—Most ridiculous report: Fanhouse saying last month that James would go on a recruiting tour, with Nike unveiling a new sneaker at each stop.

—Oops: ESPN’s Broussard and Marc Stein insisting 10 days ago that Wade, Bosh and James met in Miami during a weekend when Wade was in Chicago
the entire time. They stood by that report until Thursday, when
Broussard admitted it was untrue, and that the three players actually
met June 19 in Ohio.

—A bit too far: ESPN’s Chad Ford saying last Friday that Wade was leaning toward signing with the Bulls.
Wade strongly considered it, but said this week he always planned to
re-sign with Miami if Bosh or James joined him.

—Naive report: ESPN, quoting a source, said the
Nets’ meeting with James was “front-runner tremendous.” ESPN shouldn’t
have fallen into that trap — every team said its meeting went
splendidly. (And, by the way, have you ever heard a team announce that
a player underwent unsuccessful surgery?)

—Huh? Broussard reported the Knicks were the favorite to land Joe Johnson; colleague Ric Bucher said the Hawks were. Bucher was right.

—Most overexposed: Broussard and J.A. Adande, who were forced to appear on ESPN networks at all hours even if they had nothing new to say.

—Most entertaining candor: From Van Gundy, who said he wasn’t surprised Bosh joined Wade in Miami because he had been following Wade “around for two weeks like a lap dog.”

—Most amusing report: The New York Daily News
reporting James, hours before the start of free agency, pulled out of
his mansion in a Black S.U.V. and honked his horn at three fans holding
signs begging him to stay. “That beep meant everything!” said Cavs fan
Justin Sugermen. Or not.

—Unfortunate timing: WQAM’s Sid Rosenberg not only was on vacation this week — missing all the Heat hoopla — but spent the time filling in on a New York radio station.

—The world is round, ESPN’s Ed Werder is reporting: ESPN crediting Stein for reporting that the salary cap
would be higher than projections — three hours after the NBA sent an
e-mail announcing that.

—Most obsessive Twitter use: Bosh, who felt compelled to announce he was eating a Belgian waffle on Wednesday.

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