Fresh off “The Decision” debacle, ESPN is opening itself up to even more criticism over its cuddly coverage of LeBron James – this time online.
ESPN removed a story -- shortly after it was posted on its website Wednesday – that chronicled a few days James spent partying in Las Vegas.
A spokesperson for ESPN said it pulled the story, titled “A Kid in James’ Court” and penned by ESPNLosAngeles.com writer Arash Markazi. Here’s ESPN’s official take:
“The story should have never been published. The draft was inadvertently put on the server before going through the usual editorial process. We are in the midst of looking into the matter.”
But the network might also be protecting its cozy relationship with James, who earlier this month gave ESPN his contrived, prepackaged “Decision” special exclusively.
After all, the story paints James and his entourage as hand-fed, hard-partying misogynists.
Despite James' apparent willingness to allow Markazi follow him around -- not to mention his "six-figure" payday for appearing in Vegas -- the resulting article is not the sort of image James, the South Beach Heat or Nike want the public to see. Unlike “The Decision,” the James’ backdrop in Vegas wasn’t underprivileged children at a Boys & Girls Club -- it was panty-less go-go dancers. Apparently.
Via screengrabs from the story currently circulating on the Web:
When trays of dessert plates are brought over, James gets up, preferring to start his party upstairs instead of indulging in the giant fortune cookies and chocolate cake. A security guard comes over and puts plastic wristbands on our wrists and escorts us through the back of the restaurant, up a flight of stairs in the bowels of the hotel and through a back entrance into the club. About a dozen security guards, moving their flash lights, direct us to a roped off section on the dance floor of Tao next to a couple of apparently nude women in a bathtub full of water and rose petals.
[Maverick] 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.
James, who can hardly see the flying figure through his tinted glasses, almost gets kicked in the head on the waiter's last trip down. He looks at the girls around him and says, "I wish they'd have one of these girls with no panties do that instead of the guy."
You can read the full version here.