ESPN abruptly dumps salacious LeBron James party story (UPDATED with ESPN response)

By Rick Chandler | http://outofbounds.nbcsports.com/

If you were reading a rather provocative ESPN story about LeBron James partying at a Las Vegas night club, and now you're not, there's a reason for that. ESPN yanked the story off the Internets after only a few minutes of life. The piece by Arash Markazi, which actually appeared on ESPN's Los Angeles affiliate site, tells of a Roman banquet-style blowout following James' announcement of his move to Miami. As tell-all stories about a night with an NBA superstar go, this one was pretty tremendous. Excerpts:





A security guard comes over and puts plastic wristbands on our wrists and escorts us through the back of the restaurant, up a flight of stairs in the bowels of the hotel and through a back entrance into the club. About a dozen security guards, moving their flash lights, direct us to a roped off section on the dance floor of Tao next to a couple of apparently nude women in a bathtub full of water and rose petals.

Bottle after bottle of "Ace of Spades" champagne is delivered to the table by a waiter flying down from above the dance floor like some overgrown Peter Pan on a wire. One time he's dressed like a King, another time as Indiana Jones and another in a replica of James' No. 6 Miami Heat jersey.

James, who can hardly see the flying figure through his tinted glasses, almost gets kicked in the head on the waiter's last trip down. He looks at the girls around him and says, "I wish they'd have one of these girls with no panties do that instead of the guy."

Toward the end of the night, Boston Celtics forward Glen Davis walks past James' party and looks at the scene up and down several times like a painting in a museum, soaking in the images of the go-go dancers, the "King" sign and the costumed man delivering bottles of champagne.

Davis shakes his head and walks on.

UPDATE: ESPN response following the jump.

Five security guards are stationed around him, one at each corner of the table he's about to sit at and another roving around with him, watching his every move. Anyone who takes two steps toward James is stopped and must have James' approval to come closer.

The waiter bringing him his cup of green tea with a spoonful of honey and a dash of lemon juice makes the cut, as does the scantily clad brunette with a tattoo of a heart on her right shoulder.

She wants to take a picture with him. "I can't right now," says James. "Maybe later, upstairs, I'll remember you're the one with the tattoo."

Even though ESPN immediately moved to spike the story, the HTML version soon came out. Here it is (click to enlarge), thanks to the efforts of such people as Matthew LaWell and Chris Littman, two of several who posted links on their Twitter accounts. As the blog Waiting For Next Year points out, "The Internet always wins."

Carter, LeBron's childhood friend and manager, begins dancing around James like Puff Daddy in a Notorious B.I.G video. A giant red crown-shaped cake is brought over to James while go-go dancers dressed in skimpy red and black outfits raise four lettered placards that spell out, "KING." Carter grabs a bottle of Grey Goose and pours a quarter of it on the floor and raises it up before passing it off.

ESPN heavily invested in James with The Decision show, all the while insisting that there had been no blurring of the line between producing the TV spectacle and reporting the story. But now it appears that there may be a conflict of interest at play; Markazi's eyewitness account doesn't exactly show LeBron in the best light. He's a somewhat-married father of two, after all. Literally wading in Grey Goose? Waiters floating on wires? Naked chicks in bathtubs? Caligula is wondering if his invitation got lost in the mail.

Did the LeBron camp send orders to ESPN to yank the story? I've contacted ESPN for a response, and have heard only that they're "looking into it."

UPDATE: ESPN responds. In an email to Out of Bounds, an ESPN spokesman wrote:

"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."

UPDATE: From Sports Business Daily:

James' reps confirmed ESPN's statement that removing the article was an editorial decision, telling CNBC that they had no say in the matter. As of presstime, Markazi had not commented on the matter nor posted anything on his Twitter account in more than 24 hours.

***
ESPN Mysteriously Pulls LeBron James Las Vegas Tell-All [Wait For Next Year]
A Kid in King James' court [ESPNLosAngeles.com]
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