This morning ESPNLA.com published a fascinating ‘night-in-the-life’ piece on LeBron James by ESPN staff writer Arash Markazi. Markazi was apparently granted full access to James and his entourage last Saturday night in Vegas at Tao nightclub.
Markazi is a longtime reporter, formerly of Sports Illustrated, charged with writing ESPNLA.com’s “Velvet Rope” blog. He’s a veteran of the Vegas party scene and is the last person on ESPNLA.com’s staff who would set out to author a hit piece on anyone.
So it was stunning to read Markazi’s reporting of the evening’s proceedings. Proceedings in which James and his manager Maverick Carter come off as immature, cliched posers.
Equally stunning was ESPN’s apparent decision to pull the piece from the ESPNLA.com website just hours after it was posted. Though the story was not gone from the ESPN site until after it had been reprinted on several message boards and sports blogs.
This afternoon ESPN issued a statement about the story being pulled from the site: “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.”
From talking to several sources with knowledge of the situation, it appears that a story of that magnitude, though ticketed to appear only on ESPNLA.com, should have been edited by Bristol editorial personnel - and wasn’t.
Unfortunately for ESPN, removing a story that paints LeBron James in a negative light from ESPNLA.com looks bad regardless of the circumstances. Especially when it is authored by someone with the resume and reputation of Markazi.
Darren Rovell of CNBC reported this afternoon:
LeBron’s business team says it had nothing to do with spiking ESPN.com’s Vegas story about him.
I have no doubt that “LeBron’s business team” is saying that publicly, but privately? I wouldn’t be so sure that LeBron’s handlers aren’t calling Markazi’s reporting into question with ESPN personnel in Bristol. I haven’t been told that, but having covered many of these types of stories over ther years, I wouldn’t rule it out.
I’ve been told that ESPN has not ruled out re-posting the story to the ESPNLA.com website after it goes through the company’s “usual editorial process”.
For Bristol’s sake, I hope they do.
With the story already now easily accessible on other sites, I’m reposting it here for your perusal.