Tomorrow, people in Akron and generally all of Ohio are planning to forget their troubles for a day and officially celebrate the homecoming of LeBron James. Naturally, while a lot of Cleveland Cavaliers fans are trying to pretend like they weren’t cursing the King’s name four years ago, there are Miami Heat fans who are both bitter that James decided to leave after only two NBA Championships and because he didn’t even bother thanking them in his essay about growing up. Put that all into one pot, stir and sprinkle social media generously, and you’ve got the makings of one giant sports fan stew.
ESPN personality and South Florida radio host Dan Le Batard is like a professional chef when it comes to stirring the pot, though, and he has spent the last few weeks openly developing a special prank that would add some humor to James’s special day. That plan came to fruition yesterday, when at least six billboards like the one above were unveiled around Akron, allowing Heat fans to tell their former beloved star that he doesn’t need to thank them. And of course Le Batard threw in some Comic Sans for a finishing touch.
Still feeling the power from Stephen A. Smith’s recent suspension, the ESPN brass handed down a two-day suspension for Le Batard, explaining “Dan will be off the air for two days, returning Monday. His recent stunt does not reflect ESPN’s standards and brand. Additionally, we were not made aware of his plans in advance.”
Except, he’d been talking about it for at least two weeks. Whatever. Le Batard basically got a four-day weekend to really soak in the Miami Beach sun and hilarious, pissed off responses from all of the Cavs and NBA fans who simply don’t have a sense of humor about a harmless joke. After all, as Le Batard told the Miami Herald’s Greg Cote, this was nothing more than some plain, old fun.
“It’s just fun anarchy. All meant in fun — which, of course, will turn into Cleveland people getting filled with rage, poison and irrational hostility and want to use those billboards as a guillotine. Sports are so great, the more irrational the better. This is a publicity stunt disguised as a movement. Please don’t tell anyone there is no actual movement.”
In response to the suspension, Le Batard texted Cote: “I guess ESPN didn’t find it all quite as funny as I did.” Do they ever?