By Jeff Pearlman
July 02, 2010

According to my source, LeBron James plans on signing with the Los Angeles Clippers.

"He's going to California," my source told me. "He wants to compete head-to-head with Kobe."

My source is a mole. Literally. He's a brownish oval, roughly one half-inch in diameter, located on the right side of my stomach. I've been itching to have him removed, but my dermatologist says there's no good reason. Hence, he stays.

Last night, probably around 11:30, the mole -- much like Charlotte the magical spider -- talked to me in my sleep. He told me LeBron is headed for L.A., Chris Bosh will be a Chicago Bull and Dwyane Wade likes the color puce, dogs named Norma, long walks on the beach, Menudo's Xavier Serbia and hamburgers cut in the shape of peonies. (I might have misunderstood this last part. I was sort of groggy).

I am breaking this remarkable news because, well, why the heck not? In 2010, this is what some in the sports media business specialize in. Forget actual reporting. Forget actual digging. Forget carving out a story, working the phones, cultivating sources and waiting -- as long as one possibly must -- for the information to be proven irrefutably correct. Nowadays, with an infinite amount of Internet space and air time waiting to be filled, with eight million media outlets fighting for the right to boastfully utter, "Breaking News! We are the first to report that ...," with pressure from bosses who don't understand -- and don't care to understand -- the intricacies of righteous journalism ... well, nowadays everything is messed up.

The frantic race to break any LeBron-Wade-Bosh news has rendered many in the media pathetic. First, because our lives have been reduced to chasing around a bunch of obscenely wealthy youngsters as they decide which team will pay them millions to them toss a round ball through a piece of mesh. Second, because we have abandoned our principles.

Back when I was studying journalism at the University of Delaware in the mid-1990s, Bill Fleischman, my beloved professor and a legendary PhiladelphiaDaily News hockey scribe, made it perfectly clear that anonymous quotes and third-party sourcing and self-insertions into the news -- while allowable in the most dire of circumstances -- should only be used as the last of last resorts. "At the end of the day, your reputation is all you have," he memorably told us. "And if your reporting isn't sound, your reputation isn't, either."

Look at us now. Just as it was with Brett Favre before James and A-Rod before Favre, ESPN has morphed into the LeBron Network -- one talking head asking another talking head to comment on the comments of a third talking head.

Talking Head One: "So, gut feeling, where do you think LeBron winds up?"

Talking Head Two: "Well, I haven't talked to LeBron. Or anyone close to LeBron. But I once had a very brief conversation with Jay Guidinger about ice fishing in Duluth. And knowing LeBron like I do, I think he'll return to Cleveland."

Talking Head Three: "I agree. I was in Cleveland two weeks ago, and according to my sources -- LeBron likes pierogi."

Talking Head One: "I've heard that, too."

Talking Head Two: "Me, too."

Talking Head Three: "They are delicious."

My favorite insight from the past week was supplied by Stephen A. Smith, the longtime NBA scribe/commentator who left the Philadelphia Inquirer two days ago and now finds himself, like James and Co., a free agent. Appearing on Dan Patrick's radio show, Smith insisted that James, Wade and Bosh had all agreed to go to Miami as a package deal. "I got a call last night from a source, and I double-checked it with another, and they told me essentially that LeBron James and Chris Bosh are going to tag team and go together to join Dwayne Wade in Miami," said Smith, casually dropping the word "essentially" as an out. "Obviously, there are numerous reports out there. Whoever is wrong can have egg on their face. As far as I'm concerned, I already have. Because I thought in my heart of hearts that eventually, he would go to the New York Knicks. But around 10 o'clock last night or so, I heard the news. I stayed up for a few more hours and made a few phone calls, and I felt comfortable enough to go with what I reported."

So, Stephen A., you're confirming the story, right? The three are going to Miami?

"I believe it's highly likely," he said. "I would never say anything is a done deal with LeBron James until it's signed."

The truth is, nobody -- probably not even the players -- knows what's about to go down here. Which is fine. Because there are other things happening in the world -- oil spills and Supreme Court nominations, the rise of Stephen Strasburg and the World Cup, the coming Independ -- What? What's that you say? Really?

I'm sorry, but I have to interrupt this column for breaking news. According to my mole, Chris Bosh just drank a Diet Coke.

In Chicago.

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