LeBron James’ One-Hour Free Agency Spectacular: A Glimpse To Tomorrow Land

30 years from now, this will be absolute commonplace.

Free Agency decisions will have major motion pictures as a platform for announcement and you’ll be able to vote for which team the player signs with a dedicated button on your Blackberry Explosion. We’ll be able to look back to this week as the first step to the entertainment of sports becoming the business and enterprise that we always knew was fueling said entertainment. It will take the American Idol model that has infiltrated bestowing the honors of All-Star selections, All-Star MVP selection, NBA Dunk Champions and even single votes for MVP and windmill it into our 4D televisions.

LeBron James has gone from making a free agency decision that will move him one step closer to blazing his own trail to championship glory and turned it into a charitable LeBronathon Variety Show. And honestly, I don’t know that you could expect anything else.

Bill Simmons and a reader from LeBron’s home state predicted this in November. “The LeBrachelor” – as Bill Simmons deemed it – is now scheduled to be aired Thursday night at 9 p.m. EST time and should be a ratings bonanza. This is sure to set the critics reeling and the message boards erupting with vitriol. However, was it really something none of us should have expected?

The business of sharing information and breaking news has changed dramatically in the last decade. We no longer wait for the morning paper. We have blogs breaking stories, major media outlets confirming them and all the while everybody already new the stories because a reporter had leaked the same information on Twitter. The next natural progression of this was going to be TV shows dedicated to spilling the beans while either lining the pockets of the athletes and entities involved or unnecessarily setting the stage for a charitable donation that could have easily been made in an anonymous setting or some type of ribbon cutting ceremony.

“ESPN was in talks with James a couple of months ago about filming his planned free agency ‘tour’,” Cleveland Plain Dealer beat reporter Brian Windhorst stated on Twitter after the one-hour special announcement. “But talks ended after Celtics loss.”

So this is what we’ve come to as a society?

LeBron James gets his own primetime show to announce a decision of where he wants to make his next $100 million. He’s going to milk this for all it’s worth. And you know what? We’re going to lap it up because it means something if you care about the game of basketball. Basketball personnel building is no longer considered to be a sacred thing. It used to be respected as a behind-the-doors type of masquerade in which only the most cunning pioneers of the front office truly knew what was going on.

And now?

They’re making freaking movies about it. The front office no longer has any say in how the information is concealed. Agents would occasionally play their hand in the local newspapers and force the front office guys to call their bluff. Now, the agents really don’t have much say in regards to what their clients do with their side of the meetings. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are treating the proceedings as a film school project. Their lackies are Tweeting for them as everyone else paces nervously back-and-forth, hoping for their once revered bargaining mystique amongst doesn’t get exposed for petty gerrymandering and job insecurities.

The media no longer has any of the power. Instead of beating national and fellow beat writers to the news, they’re trying to get to it before the players involved announce it. Posses and camps and that one cousin with the lazy eye who needed to work for his night club loan are shaping how the information, business model and player image is being distributed. Agents have no power. Reporters have no true leads. And front offices are left wondering if the research firm they hired put together a good enough presentation and if the Photoshop’d photo of the free agent in their jersey was sharp enough.

I don’t think it mutually exclusive to the LeBrons, Wades, and Stoudemires of the world. Soon, even guys like Matt Barnes and Steve Novak are going to be teasing us with which team they’re about to sign on with through cryptic messages that can only be decoded if Nic Cage and his horrible wig can steal Millard Fillmore’s property deed and cover it in vinegar before sundown.

Many of you are going to be pissed and upset at the idea of LeBron holding his own national signing day on ESPN as he prepares to enter his eighth season in the NBA. You’re going to complain about hype, ratings and advertising dollars. I’d advise against that.

Instead, relish this moment and just sit back and enjoy it. This is the start of a new era in breaking news – a new form of journalism in which players hold every bit of power and leave the rest of us waiting with great anticipation.

And when Ira Newble comes out on a tricycle, juggling contracts and the number across the screen asks you to make a donation call, be sure to pick up the phone. LeBron will be waiting for your credit card information so he can tell you he’s not signing with your favorite team.

Seth Carstens