View pictures from WEWS photographers and submitted by our fans of the Welcome Home rally for LeBron James in Akron.
CLEVELAND - A year after a one-hour television special turned LeBron James from one of the most popular athletes on the planet into the NBA's villain, four behind-the-scenes operatives of "The Decision" shared the details of the ESPN special.
They talked with Sports Illustrated about the plans that went into putting the special together, the day of the event, and LeBron's immediate reaction.
Mark Dowley, a former partner at the William Morris Endeavor agency; Scott Frantz, a Connecticut state legislator; Steve O'Neill, CEO of private jet company CitationAir; and Bob DeAngelo, the executive director of the Greenwich Boys & Girls Club, discussed some of the details behind the special.
The concept for the show, according to SI's article, was hatched during the 2010 NBA Finals when agent Ari Emanuel approach Mark Dowley about the idea of putting on a special, with the proceeds benefitting charity. Dowley then took the idea to LeBron's business manager Maverick Carter.
After talking it over with LeBron, who loved the idea, they decided to go forward with the plans.
They decided to host the taping of "The Decision" in Greenwich, Connecticut because it was neutral territory and there were no concerns about LeBron's safety, Dowley said.
"It's neutral territory, because none of us knew where LeBron was going," he said. "It was as neutral as you could get while still being convenient. We worried about doing the show in Cleveland for LeBron's personal safety. And if we went to any of the other contending cities, people would have thought he was definitely going there. And in Greenwich, I felt like we could get him in and out of town safely."
LeBron arrived in Greenwich on the day of the special, and spent several hours at Dowley's house hanging out with his entourage, ESPN representatives, Boys & Girls Club people, and even got a special visit from Kanye West.
"It was funny to watch," Dowley said, "all the kids there thought LeBron was pretty cool, but apparently they think Kanye is really, really cool."
Once LeBron and the crew went to the telecast, only a handful of people knew he was headed to Miami. As he announced his plants to play for the Heat, "you heard this huge collective groan from all the people crowded outside," DeAngelo said.
Soon after, LeBron left the facility. He posed for one photo with the kids, but did not sign any autographs.
"When you have someone in like that, the tendency is to say he's going to be great, and sign a lot of autographs and ham it up and get lots of photos," DeAngelo said. "I'd say we were disappointed we weren't able to do that."
After the show, Dowley said that LeBron and his team felt great about the show, not worried at all about all of the criticism that was about to come his way.
"We all felt great about how much money we netted for the kids," Dowley said. "He didn't look worried one way or the other."
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