Northeast Ohio basketball fans and media outlets have basically focused on one thing the past few days…whether a certain Akron native would bring his talents back to the North Coast.
And though it has mainly played out on Twitter, local media outlets and personalities have been right in the middle of the commotion surrounding LeBron James’ next move…whatever it will be.
It started on Sunday, when a tweet from CBS Radio sports WKRK/92.3 “The Fan” weekend host Joe Lull started the ball rolling on Sunday:
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is currently en route to south Florida.
— Joe Lull (@LullOnSports) July 6, 2014
That drew a bemused response from, well, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.
“. @LullOnSports:Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is currently en route to south Florida.” I am? Sorry folks but enjoying weather in my backyard today
— Dan Gilbert (@cavsdan) July 6, 2014
Lull, who was vacationing on Put-in-Bay with limited cell phone service, got back to Dan later:
Should've clarified earlier. Dan's plane was scheduled to take off for South Florida at 2pm. Could be sending it down for someone.
— Joe Lull (@LullOnSports) July 6, 2014
As it turned out, the plane was owned by one of Gilbert’s many companies, and Twitter users found its tail number and tracked it from the Detroit area to South Florida.
Associated Press Miami-based sportswriter Tim Reynolds even shared a picture of the Gilbert plane.
Dan Gilbert has a plane. It's here. pic.twitter.com/G7WUeUcV87
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) July 6, 2014
At some point, it became clear that Dan Gilbert wasn’t aboard the plane. But who was aboard?
Enter Lull’s “92.3 The Fan” colleague, update anchor and host Anthony Lima:
Been working on this for two hours but can now confirm from second source that LBJ's friend and former Cav Zydrunas Ilgauskas was on plane
— Anthony Lima (@AnthonyLimaFAN) July 7, 2014
At this point, no one is sure WHO was on the plane, or if it was even headed to South Florida on NBA business. Akron Beacon Journal Cavaliers beat writer Jason Lloyd:
Contrary to popular belief, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was not on that plane.
Neither were Cavs General Manager David Griffin nor owner Dan Gilbert.
Griffin was in Cleveland on Sunday, Gilbert was at home in Detroit and Ilgauskas never boarded the private jet that flew from Detroit to South Florida, several sources with knowledge of the situation have confirmed to the Beacon Journal.
Oh, but the fun isn’t over yet…and certainly, as of this writing, neither is the media circus.
With many national reporters leaning towards a LeBron James return to Cleveland, and one (Chris Sheridan) reporting it was a 100% certainty, it was Beacon Journal news reporter Phil Trexler who set the bonfire ablaze on Thursday afternoon…again, on Twitter:
Bath police to increase patrols around LBJ's home after 3 p. when annoucement is expected "tonight." #KingJames
— PHIL TREXLER-ABJ (@PhilTrexler) July 10, 2014
Sure enough, pretty much the entire Bath Township police department came to a certain mansion a stone’s throw from the I-77/Ohio 18 exit.
And so did dozens of fans who wanted to be “part of history”, or who just had nothing better to do on a summer Thursday afternoon. (That, of course, sent Cleveland’s four TV newsrooms scrambling to get crews to Bath.)
A rumored 3:30 PM announcement (get it? Akron’s area code is 330) never happened.
In addition to TV crews, radio types like Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100’s Seth Williams – from the station’s afternoon drive Mike Trivisonno Show – joined the fun.
— seth williams (@sethwtam1100) July 10, 2014
Ah, but WTAM – the Cavaliers’ flagship station – wasn’t done yet, in a tweet from Indians beat reporter-turned-evening talk show host Nick Camino.
Source close to LeBron James' agent Rich Paul has told Newsradio WTAM 1100 that his decision will be announced by 11:00 pm tonight.
— Nick Camino (@NickCaminoWTAM) July 10, 2014
That never happened, either.
TV stations not only camped out along with the fans at LeBron’s mansion in Bath, they got into the act in many other ways.
One station had a list of a dozen stories on its website last night, and all were LeBron related, save for one that wasn’t.
If you tune to Cleveland TV newscasts, pretty much all other news is being relegated to 5 minutes or more into the newscast (with more LeBron stories later!).
But our prize goes to our friends at Reserve Square, where Raycom CBS/MyNet combo WOIO/19-WUAB/43 upped the hype ante with this announcement on Thursday:
The speculation about which team LeBron James will sign with next has been growing louder and louder. And now with LeBron’s decision expected at any moment Cleveland’s 19 Action News has decided to sweeten the deal to come to Cleveland by offering to name its Sports Studio “The LeBron James Sports Center.”
“It’s an exciting time to be a Cleveland Cavaliers fan! There is no better player in the league than LeBron James. Here at 19 Action News we’re ready to welcome him back with open arms and witness forgiveness!” Dominic Mancuso, Vice President and General Manager of WOIO commented. “19 Action News is committed to covering the King and giving Cleveland Cavaliers fans front row seats to all the action in our newscasts LIVE… hopefully from the LeBron James Sports Center.”
No, we are not kidding. (And new VP/GM Mancuso apparently found the Bill Applegate Playbook in his new office.)
At this writing on Friday morning, we believe LeBron James is making a stop in Miami (ut oh!) before heading to Brazil for the World Cup. The latest word from “sources” is that James is apparently hung up on Gilbert’s infamous “letter” in Comic Sans font.
And no “Decision 2.0″…yet.
We’re not writing this item to point out missed or inaccurate reporting.
It appears that nearly everyone in sports media is being led astray by their various sources, maybe even on purpose or from people jumping the gun on “what they know”. And things may be changing behind the scenes between what the local media members hear from their sources. What was true at 3:00 on Thursday afternoon may have changed by 4:00.
About the only thing we can say for sure is that something is coming to Cleveland…the 2016 Republican National Convention…