By Mike Corbett I’m about to report what may very well be some breaking news: LeBron James has left the Miami Heat and signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It's world altering news and I’m honored to be breaking a story like this. What’s that? You’ve heard this news already? How could that be possible? Oh, right, because ESPN covered it like CNN covered that missing Malaysian plane.
Now, I will readily admit that LeBron choosing to go back to Cleveland is a big story, and one that does radically shift power in the NBA, there’s no denying that. With that being said, overkill is the only word that can describe ESPN’s coverage of the story, and I’m not sure that’s quite a strong enough term. For nearly 8 hours straight, the only thing the network covered was LeBron James. Their previously scheduled programming? Out the window. The scrolling sidebar that tells you what story they’ll cover next? Gone, replaced with a full length picture of LeBron.
Again, I’m not arguing that it wasn’t a big story that merited a lot of coverage. The problem was, there wasn’t very much to the story. LeBron was leaving his Miami super team to return to his hometown, and he announced it via an essay in Sports Illustrated. Without a press conference or interviews with his new or former teammates, there were only so many angles you could cover, and ESPN had pretty much picked those clean within the first hour. Instead of taking a break to cover the other stories in the sports world, they chose to trot out every available studio analyst and talking head they could find, to have them give their take on the story. When they ran through all the talent they had in the studio, they starting calling their analysts from all around in country, or in the apparent case of Bill Simmons, pulling them in from off the street.
Once ESPN beat the talking head segments into the ground, it began consuming itself to keep the news cycle going. Earlier in the day, they had Josina Anderson reporting live from Cleveland, capturing fan reactions to LeBron coming home. Once that had been replayed to death, ESPN went back to Anderson to get her report on how it felt to interview people about LeBron coming home. That’s right, instead of covering any other story in the sports world, ESPN desperately attempted to turn how a reporter felt while doing their job into news. Sometime after the third replay of that report, ESPN finally resumed its regularly scheduled programming and only cut in with LeBron news every fifteen minutes or so. I assume it’s because they felt having Josina Anderson report on how she felt reporting on how she felt while interviewing Cleveland fans would be just a bit of overkill.