The hour that ESPN devoted to LeBron James and his choice of where to play basketball next season was widely reviled (outside Miami, anyway) — but it was also widely watched.
ESPN says “The Decision” — in which NBA star James announced he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat — drew a 7.3 rating in the overnight metered markets, higher than any other show on TV Thursday night (July 8). By comparison, CBS’ rerun of “The Mentalist” got the best overnight number on broadcast TV with a 6.0; that translated to a 5.6 rating/10 share and 8.6 million viewers in the fast nationals, so the James special probably drew somewhere between 9 million and 10 million viewers.
That, by the way, is more people than typically watch actual NBA games (even in the playoffs) on ESPN or the league’s other cable partner, TNT.
Not that viewers got much for their time.
James and his handlers essentially bought the hour from ESPN and sold the ad time, then donated money to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The actual decision wasn’t made public until about halfway through “The Decision”; most of what became before and after was filler, and critics have used words like “horrid,” “crass” and “cruel” and deemed the way James handled the announcement a disaster in terms of his image.