Close your eyes. Now picture this: LeBron James approaches the microphone at his Cleveland homecoming event, his mind racing. It’s his first time in four years addressing the Cleveland fans as a member of their team and he has a lot to say. He opens his mouth to speak, but at that very moment Peter Gabriel’s 1980’s hit “In Your Eyes” begins blaring from the stands. Confused LeBron glances up and shielding his eyes spots a tall brown-haired figure in a tan trench coat walking through the crowd with a boombox extended over his head and Cleveland hero Charles Ramsey – of “dead giveaway” fame – shadowing him in support.
“Is that... Lloyd Dobler?” James asks in bewilderment.
No, LeBron. It’s the final phase of Operation Hemorrhage—Dan Le Batard’s multi-front attack on the peace of mind of Cleveland basketball fans everywhere.
But let's go back to the beginning. It all started as a joke on the Miami sportswriter and radio host Le Batard’s radio show in late July.
Discussing how many Miami Heat fans felt slighted by LeBron not thanking them in his Sports Illustrated essay, Le Batard and his radio co-hosts light-heartedly debated on their show how much it would cost to take out a “You’re welcome LeBron” ad in either The Cleveland Plain Dealer or the Akron Beacon Journal.
Things took an interesting turn when both newspapers announced they had rejected Le Batard’s (non-existent) offer. Media outlets around the country ran with the story of how the good blue-collar newspapers in Ohio had shut down the evil plans of Dan Le Batard and his motley crew of cronies, complete with photos of an ad that their show didn’t make. This ironically gave Le Batard more publicity and attention than he would have gotten had he taken out the small ad the newspaper claimed he was interested in.
It’s important to emphasize here that all Le Batard did was ask for a price quote for the sake of settling an on-air debate. He never made an offer nor did he have any anti-LeBron plots brewing.
That is, until this week.
Known to bask in the awkward and the funny side of sports, Le Batard, energized by the publicity, misreporting, and comically vicious tweets that rose from the Plain Dealer incident, Le Batard set in motion a series of events that would torment Cleveland and avenge Miami.
His attack began Wednesday with a series of “You’re Welcome, LeBron. Love, Miami.” billboards—written in Dan Gilbert comic sans font—popping up all over the Akron area.
Just how many billboards Le Batard bought is unclear, but Le Batard Show producer Mike Ryan hints that there’s “Not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5...”
The final phase of his plan includes the aforementioned Say Anything boombox scene re-enactment – with Mike Ryan playing the Cusack role – and, if Le Batard’s hints are to be believed, four airplanes flying over LeBron’s homecoming at InfoCision Stadium in Akron and decorating the sky with… well, we’ll have to find out.
Le Batard has made it clear many times that he has no ill will to LeBron. If anything all evidence points to him being LeBron’s biggest supporter in the sports media. He claims that this is all just “a shameless attention grab masquerading as a cause” and nothing more.
Of course, it's one thing for a fan to troll LeBron—it's another entirely for an ESPN-employed sports personality to openly do so.
Unsurprisingly, the network has suspended Le Batard for his campaign. It's safe to assume the Say Anything moment has been squelched entirely.