The Decision: Ten Years Later

ESPN film documents how that controversial moment launched LeBron and added to his legacy

The Decision: Ten Years Later
Backstory: The Decision (Source: Robert Abbott)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - "This Fall I'm gonna take my talents to South Beach".

Those were the words that crushed an entire region.

I'd say it's hard to believe that was ten years ago, but so much has happened since, including, of course, the homecoming that mended a lot of broken hearts, and the title that certainly mended the rest.

But LeBron’s highly-publicized and equally criticized television special “The Decision” lives on, because of what it means to his legacy.

“The legacy of this for LeBron ... for his storytelling, for player empowerment, the way players switch teams now, not even having been free agents,” says Don Van Natta. ”They just demand trades, like Anthony Davis and Jimmy Butler, and they move the way they do. All of that you can draw back to LeBron.”

Van Natta Jr., the multiple Pulitzer Prize winner, has once again teamed up with multiple Emmy Award- winning producer Robert Abbott to bring us “Backstory: The Decision” this Sunday night.

A decision that meant different things for different people, as former ESPN executive Keith Clinkscales, who oversaw the network’s production of “The Decision”, points out in the film.

"I mean, I love the moment when Clinkscales takes me to school and says this is a moment of empowerment and freedom for Black Americans, watching what LeBron did," Van Natta says.

And while LeBron had no idea how big, and divisive, that moment was going to be, he started to understand as showtime approached.

"I had someone tell me that they saw him (LeBron) at that house in Greenwich (prior to The Decision), and he looked as though he wanted to pull the plug," Van Natta says.

Instead, the show went on, and in many ways, it launched LeBron. Certainly, his voice, and impact off the court.

Since then, he’s built production studios. Opened a school for at-risk kids. Donated hundreds of millions of dollars.

And, changed the landscape for athletes in all sports.

“I mean, it’s remarkable,” Van Natta says. “Every single issue that comes up. Even yesterday, he said the NFL should apologize to Colin Kaepernick. A day doesn’t go by where LeBron isn’t weighing in on some issue.”

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