There was much kerfuffle yesterday, with good reason, about ESPN’s decision to spike an Arash Markazi piece about a night out with LeBron James and his crew. (Including Chris Paul, by the way.) The piece, which can still be read right here, might not have been the most artful thing we’d ever read, but Markazi — a friendly, competent fellow known for rather cozy relationships with athletes — had almost otherworldly access, a fleeting glimpse behind the curtain of How Superstar Athletes Live. It’s little wonder ESPN spiked it. They claim the story was mistakenly posted, which makes so little sense that even newspapers that have often defended ESPN aren’t even pretending to believe them. (USA Today, bless its heart, remains the exception.) But still: fun stuff here.
Actually, the story of LeBron’s night isn’t terribly different than we imagined it being in our cover story a few months ago. (He actually eats at Tao in Vegas; our story had him eating at New York’s Tao restaurant.) Though we’re not sure Mayor Bloomberg allows the sort of casual decadence that Vegas gives LeBron in the story.
Carter, LeBron’s’ childhood friend and manager, begins dancing around James like Puff Daddy in a Notorious B.I.G video. A giant red crown-shaped cake is brought over to James while go-go dancers dressed in skimpy red and black outfits raise four lettered placards that spell out, “KING.” Carter grabs a bottle of Grey Goose and pours a quarter of it on the floor and raises it up before passing it off.
That’s just the beginning, but you’ve read this by now, right? There’s nothing damning in here, but just enough pseudo-embarrassing stuff that it was inevitable ESPN would spike the story. The sad thing is, this night, this one with the cake and the placards and the Goose … this is a night off, the night with the reporter around, the nothing night. We bet when there are no reporters around, there are tigers.