As LeBron James opts out, remembering his Greenwich “Decision”

The crowd outside the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich huddled around waiting for news about LeBron James' free agency decision in 2010. Will history repeat itself in 2014? — Paul Silverfarb photo

The crowd outside the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich huddled around waiting for news about LeBron James’ free agency decision in 2010. Will history repeat itself in 2014? — Paul Silverfarb photo

Editor’s note: With news that NBA superstar LeBron James is opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat to become a free agent, thoughts immediately turned back to The Decision, the much maligned one-hour ESPN live special where the superstar announced he was “taking his talents to South Beach.” The special was filmed at the  Boys & Girl Club of Greenwich leading many to hope he was going to sign with the Knicks. However it was not to be but now that LeBron is a free agent again, the Post is thinking back to that crazy night in Greenwich in the summer of 2010. The following is the story that was written in July 2010 about The Decision.

 

Cries of disbelief and intense disappointment filled the air outside of the Greenwich Boys & Girls Club Thursday night when a crowd of more than 600 mostly youthful fans reacted to the news that basketball superstar LeBron James had snubbed the New York Knicks.

The rabid crowd of Knicks fans had been camped out for hours outside the club awaiting Mr. James’ heavily hyped decision about where he would sign a free agent contract. And while rumors had flown all day that he was about to sign with the Miami Heat, the crowd didn’t want to believe it until he actually said it.

At that point cheers for LeBron and for the Knicks quickly turned against the star and hearty boos and even profane chants were heard throughout the night as the huge crowd dispersed and went home with their dreams of Mr. James leading a basketball renaissance in New York City dashed.

Mr. James made his announcement in an ESPN special entitled The Decision live from the Greenwich Boys & Girls Club. The special began at 9 p.m. but the actual choice was not revealed until well into that run time, keeping everyone on edge

As everyone waited for the word to come through, many huddled around laptop computers streaming live feeds of the special or radio broadcasts. As the special dragged on through a more than 15 minute introduction and a couple of commercial breaks an air of tense anticipation came over the crowd of fans and media members, many of whom had been waiting for hours. New York Daily News reporter Julian Garcia even joked that with everyone crowded around a boom box waiting for the news that it was “like the moon landing.”

And when Mr. James finally did announce that he was leaving his hometown team of the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Heat in a triumvirate of stars that includes Dwayne Wade and the newly signed Chris Bosh, the crowd erupted in anger and heartbreak with some even throwing bottles of VitaminWater which had been provided before since they were helping to sponsor the event.

Perhaps one of the most upset was Stamford teenager Mike Correa, a die-hard Knicks fan who had waited outside the club since 9 a.m. Decked out in a Knicks T-shirt and cap, Mike found little solace after the decision was announced.

“I’m more disappointed than I’ve ever been,” Mike sadly said as he began packing up his stuff with his friends to go home.

Greenwich resident Marcus Motill told the Post he was “beyond outraged” by the decision to spurn New York for Miami.

“This is so disappointing,” Marcus said. “I don’t know what else to say.”

Marcus’ friend Alex Akinyemi questioned LeBron James’ toughness since he joined a team that already had one superstar on it instead of coming to a team like the Knicks that desperately needed the help.

“He can’t win it on his own obviously,” Alex said. “He has to go somewhere where other people can wit it for him. Dwyane Wade already has a ring. This is bad for LeBron’s rep. He’s going to a place that already won it in the past 10 years to win it. He’s taking a backseat to Wade in the town because he can’t win it in on his own.”

Marina Piersol was even more emphatic about how this decision throws off the competitive balance of the NBA.

“This is ridiculous and I will never watch basketball ever again,” Marina said.

Many wondered why Mr. James would come to Greenwich to announce he was playing in Miami and the fact that he was doing this so close to New York City gave many people hope that he was going to sign on with the Knicks. But those hopes were dashed and Greenwich’s Spencer Hyman seemed to sum up the majority of the crowd’s reaction when he loudly declared “LeBron James does not have a soul!”

Gabriel Lima predicted that Mr. James doing this in Greenwich and breaking everyone’s hearts would insure he “lived in infamy.”

Of course not everyone was despondent over the decision since the crowd actually included a few Miami Heat fans in it. One of them was Eric Hannah, who just moved to Greenwich after growing up in Florida and he was euphoric over LeBron’s choice.

“I’m really excited right now,” Eric said. “I know there aren’t a lot of people here right now happy with me, but I got LeBron on my side now and I’m really excited. I have nothing to worry about right now. I honestly never thought this would happen until this morning.”

Throughout the night the police had to clear people off the street as the crowd spilled off the sidewalk and onto the middle of Horseneck Lane. Officers were stationed outside the club all day but the bill for them, since they were technically working side jobs and were not on duty as police, was being footed by Mr. James’ management company and not the town. Capt. Tim Berry told the Post that 19 officers were on side jobs in addition to two officers there on active duty and he had been sent by the chief to supervise and make sure public safety was not an issue due to the size of the crowd. Mass Transit Authority police were also on hand for the event.

Since this was a private event and not a town one, police compared it to the craziness that surrounded last month’s Dave Matthews Band concert in Belle Haven at a private fund-raiser and wished they had more time than the 24-hour notice that this was happening.

“There’s been very little of this that’s been coordinated,” Capt. Berry said.

Attendance for the event was very tightly controlled with only a few select members of the Boys and Girls Club able to get inside with LeBron and his entourage, which included music superstar Kanye West. First Selectman Peter Tesei, his wife Jill, and State Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36) were also on the elite guest list and outside the club several members who play on its basketball team were very disappointed they weren’t allowed in too.

“There are people inside that don’t even know basketball or love the game,” Raquel Ireifej said. “We’ve been on the team here for nine years.”

The event was very tightly controlled by ESPN and the club’s hands were tied about who could and couldn’t be let inside. That created a party atmosphere outside as the number of fans grew throughout the day to compliment the more than a dozen television trucks set up outside the club and even more print reporters from publications as far away as Paris.

Fans of the Knicks, the New Jersey Nets and even the Golden State Warriors turned out to try and sway Mr. James’ decision and others just came out to watch one of the biggest events to ever hit the town.

“We just came out to see the hoopla,” Jackie Demuyt, who came with her brother, Joe, and their neighbors to see the crowd and try and get a picture of Mr. James.

Prior to the event starting, Knicks fan Kenyon Ferguson said he wasn’t surprised this happened here.

“To be honest, Greenwich never surprises me because we own the universe,” Mr. Ferguson said with a laugh.

 

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