The Idea Behind LeBron James' Glitzy Announcement To Go To Miami In 2010 Came From A Fan

Melissa Rohlin

The Decision wasn't His Idea. 

When LeBron James announced that he was leaving Cleveland to play in Miami in 2010 in a glitzy television special on ESPN called "The Decision," he was instantaneously turned into a villain. 

Many fans thought the spectacle was disrespectful to Cleveland, where he played the first seven seasons of his career. Fans burned his jersey. And Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote a scathing letter about James that was posted on the team website, in which he called him "our former hero" and criticized his "cowardly betrayal."

Turns out the entire debacle was the brainchild of a fan. 

Apparently a 38-year-old fan named Drew suggested the idea to Bill Simmons in a mailbag column he wrote for ESPN on Nov. 26, 2009.

"What if LeBron announces he will pick his 2010-11 team live on ABC on a certain date for a show called 'LeBron's Choice?'" Drew wrote, according to ESPN. "What type of crazy ratings would that get?" 

Simmons thought his idea was brilliant, and responded to Drew in his column.  

"If LeBron were smart, he would market the event through his company, sell the rights to a network and reveal his choice on that show," Simmons wrote. "... He could even make it pay-per-view ... I'm pretty sure they'll pony up for $44.99 for "Decision 2010: LeBron's Verdict."

Simmons went on to pitch Drew's idea to James' inner circle. 

A short while later, James uttered the infamous phrase "I'm taking my talents to South Beach" in front of nearly 10 million viewers, drawing the ire of of the nation. 

James has more than recovered from that blunder. 

The three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP is widely considered one of the best basketball players of all time. And he's just as beloved for his work off of the court, which has included founding the I Promise School in 2018 in Akron, Ohio, to help at-risk kids and recently founding a nonprofit organization called More Than A Vote to help end Black voter suppression. 

James went from being one of the most hated athletes in 2010, to being one of the most respected and influential public figures in the world. 

He even earned the forgiveness of Cavaliers fans. After winning two-straight championships with the Heat in 2012 and 2013, James returned to Cleveland in 2014 and went on to lead the franchise to its first NBA championship in 2016. 

ESPN explored "The Decision" and its fallout in a documentary featured on "Backstory" on Sunday. Don Van Natta, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, said even though the whole thing was embarrassing for James, it helped usher in a new era of athletes taking control of their lives and their narrative. 

“At the time it was universally criticized," Van Natta said recently on ESPN. "It was bad for LeBron. Bad for ESPN. But it was really a revolutionary moment for the way athletes tell their stories, for LeBron finding his voice and it really is an amazing moment for player empowerment. That’s the thing that really struck me in the reporting of this episode.”

As for that Drew?

Apparently he wasn't even a Cavaliers fan. His full identity, Drew Wagner, was uncovered by ESPN on Friday, and he now takes great pleasure in telling his friends -- who are Cavaliers fans -- that he was behind the fiasco.  

"It was just funny to me," Drew told ESPN. "And frustrating for them."