The unsung hero in LeBron saga
Back then, on July 8, 2010, there was Jim Gray and a national television audience. It was called “The Decision” And removed LeBron James from the Cleveland sports scene.
This time, there were no TV cameras and only the talents of Lee Jenkins, a writer for Sports Illustrated. Call this one “The Homecoming.” James returns home quietly and with dignity.
In Gray, the James camp chose unwisely. In Jenkins, they righted a wrong.
Some wrongs take a long time before being righted.
So who is Lee Jenkins and why was he chosen to announce James’ homecoming the other day? Why Jenkins this time? Why not be as splashy this time?
It all began in 2012 when Jenkins penned the cover story after SI named LeBron the Sportsman of the Year. For that piece, he allowed Jenkins into his world in order to better portray him for the prestigious honor.
It is obvious James trusts him. That, quite probably, is why the James camp couldn’t say yes fast enough when Jenkins approached and suggested a more dignified way to tell the world what James was going to do even though no one purportedly knew at the time what he would do.
The words are definitely James’ in his SI essay. You could almost feel the emotion pouring out. That’s because Jenkins crafted the words beautifully, shaped them perfectly.
It was almost as though you could hear James’ baritone speak the words. You could almost feel his feelings laid bare as he sought to rationalize his return to his home and, at the same time, not hurt fans of the Miami Heat.
Jenkins brilliantly tapped into those feelings, partnered them with the words and the result was one extraordinarily sincere essay. There was no mistaking what and how James felt.
It was class all the way; the complete opposite of that July night in 2010 when James allowed himself to be sucked up into a vortex of flawed thinking.
On the one hand, there’s Jim Gray, who all but prostituted himself in order to be the one to ask The Question that led to the famous “I’m taking my talents to South Beach, to the Miami Heat.”
That set off a visceral firestorm in Cleveland the likes of which hadn’t been seen since that early November day in 1995 when Art Modell announced in Baltimore that he was moving the Browns to that Maryland city.
Feelings were not hurt when James bolted. They were crushed. The love and devotion that embraced him for the first seven seasons of his career evaporated in waves of anger. An owner, acting like a jilted lover, overreacted.
On the other hand, there’s Jenkins, the unsung hero in the Return of LeBron to the place where he belongs. The calming voice in a storm of rumors and innuedndo.
Being a solid journalist, all Jenkins wanted was the story. He didn’t care where James wound up. He wasn’t rooting for Cleveland or Miami. He was rooting for the story.
And when that story became Cleveland, it became even better.