A firestorm of speculation surrounds LeBron James’ free agency decision


Social and sports media have been consumed by crazed rumors and chatter over where LeBron James will land.

LeBron James speaks on a cellphone during the LeBron James Skills Academy Thursday, July 10, 2014, in Las Vegas.
LeBron James speaks on a cellphone during the LeBron James Skills Academy Thursday, July 10, 2014, in Las Vegas.
John Locher / AP

Every hour brings more suspense, every tweet causes more angst, and every percentage-point prediction put on LeBron James’ decision adds more wackiness to the waiting.

This is what happens when the prime of James’ career meets free agency in the middle of the Twitter Era. There is no patience. There is no process.

James met with Heat president Pat Riley on Wednesday but still hadn’t made a decision on his future by Thursday night. James attended his basketball camp for elite prospects during the day in Las Vegas and then prepared for his trip to Rio de Janeiro for Sunday’s World Cup final between Germany and Argentina. He could make a decision Friday, but the only definitive thing in his immediate future is his flight to Brazil.

James’ silence Wednesday didn’t quiet the howling noise, though.

Throughout this free agency period, James has followed a specific plan prepared in advance by himself and his team. The due diligence he has displayed is only what any normal person would do when facing an important life decision. He has met with a prospective employer about a job, listened to that company’s pitch, and now James is thinking it over with his family.

But things have never been normal for the guy with the unnatural talent and body for the game of basketball, and there really was nothing he could have done to prevent this storm that his decision-no decision has created, save opting into his previous contract before July 30.

But that really wasn’t much of an option if he wanted to give himself and his teammates the best chance of winning a championship next season — whoever those teammates end up being and whatever jersey they end up wearing. James is expected to choose between the Heat and the Cavaliers very soon, and what many have viewed as an unnecessary waiting game on James’ part is actually, according to those inside the league, really him using free agency as a power play to build the best team possible.

Whichever owner is lucky enough to land James will make a lot of money. James is more concerned about the winning aspect of that partnership, which he has stated several times as the primary concern for free agency.

Of course, none of that boring stuff such as winning plays well on Twitter, especially when there is nothing to report and TV air time to fill, Internet news cycles to lubricate and Twitter time lines to feed. The beast was restless Thursday.

For example, journalists in Cleveland, clearly under intense pressure to break some news, any news, reported in the morning that James had canceled a flight to Northeast Ohio. The Miami Herald learned later in the day that James was never going to Ohio. He was to fly directly from Las Vegas to Brazil all along.

That it became somewhat necessary to shoot down every report was a manifestation of just how much Twitter distorted reality. Twitter hysteria started early in the day and only intensified.

Around 3:20 p.m., another journalist out of Cleveland reported that James would be announcing his decision at 3:30 p.m. Naturally, of course, because 330 is James’ home area code and he has a tattoo of the numbers on his right forearm.

Again, it was a false rumor.

By that point, Cleveland had already made up its collective mind, though. James was returning to Northeast Ohio. That’s when things got really weird.

Another report out of Cleveland claimed that the decision was imminent because the Bath Township Police Department had been informed to beef up patrols around James’ home. A patrol car was then parked in the driveway in front of James’ gate. Cleveland fans, fueled by Twitter speculation over the course of several days, then began driving to James’ neighborhood, parking their cars on James’ street and camping out in front of an empty house.

Pictures of parked cars in James’ neighborhood and roaming fans in Cavaliers basketball jerseys began popping up on the Internet. There was an Internet report of a car wreck. Twitter accounts with the handles “LeBron’s lawn” and “LeBron’s house” quickly were registered, of course, to celebrate the wackiness. T-shirt companies began selling “FOR6IVEN” prints. They likely all will be burned in effigy, of course, if James returns to Miami.

Meanwhile, Heat fans looked for any sign that James would choose Miami. The idea that James had prolonged his decision — never mind that James has never given anyone a time line — was deconstructed as a positive for the Heat. Wade attended James’ basketball camp, and Twitter interpreted that as the Heat’s final big push to recruit James.

Like a daily thundershower, the storm will kick up again Friday. There’s no stopping the weather or this hurricane of speculation. As every South Floridians know, the windows can be shuttered, the door reinforced and the insurance provided for peace of mind, but wind will blow.

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