Tonight, months of speculation will be put to rest. At 9 p.m. Eastern time, basketball star LeBron James will announce where he will sign his next contract via an hour-long ESPN special called “The Decision’’ — an act that could, for the beleaguered state of Ohio, bring either a collective sigh of relief or just another dose of frustration. Whatever happens, James’s decision to hijack prime time to make his announcement is an act of rather astounding egomania, and it highlights everything that has been wrong with the circus-like atmosphere of his brief free agency.
The wooing of James has been an embarrassing nationwide courtship ritual, with the various cities in contention producing videos, hosting rallies, and doing everything they can to lure the preening superstar. While James certainly could turn many NBA teams into title contenders and has lived up to the hype that followed him since his teenage years, the spectacle surrounding him — and the displays of desperate obsequiousness directed at him — still serve as uneasy reminders of the often outsized role of sports in American culture.
James saw to it that the ad proceeds from “The Decision’’ will be donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which was good of him. But he could have just as easily used his star power — or his personal fortune — to raise money for that or any other attention-starved charity without calling further attention to someone who doesn’t need it: LeBron James.