If you were to meet someone that had never heard of LeBron James--surely an alien--and had to explain his existence with only one article, you could do no better than
Arash Markazi's latest profile for ESPN.com the article that just got pulled off ESPN.com (UPDATE: reason below).
Anyway, some highlights from what was a fantastic profile. What's LeBron like in a Las Vegas nightclub?
Five security guards are stationed around him ... 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."
"Ooh, he's got bodyguards! And groupies! Crazy!"
Pssh... Tip. Of. The. Iceberg.
Somehow, Markazi finagled his way into a night out with LeBron and his Superfriends, including Chris Paul, his management team, and more. Just another Saturday night...
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.
...Oh, yeah. Pretty standard. Just a couple of naked women in a tub of rose petals. "You can have them if you want, Mr. James, but they're just simply a garnish to your experience at Tao tonight."
Then there's James' management team. Much like the article itself neatly encapsulates James' completely surreal day-to-day existence, these next two paragraphs provide all the context necessary to a comprehensive understanding of Maverick Carter:
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.
James' infamous one-hour special, "The Decision," was reportedly the brainchild of Carter, a 28-year-old who has never managed anyone outside of his friend James. This three-day party marathon in Vegas (which James is being paid six figures to host) is also Carter's idea.
But back to LeBron's life. That's why we're here, after all:
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.
Flying waiters dressed as Indiana Jones. WE PARTYIN' OR WHAT?
To LeBron's credit, he reportedly told his companions, "I wish they'd have one of these girls with no panties do that instead of the guy."
From there, it was on to the next one, as LeBron walked into another club, and immediately locked eyes with Lakers' superstar, Lamar Odom. Naturally, a "Teach Me How To Dougie" dance contest ensued, which LeBron won. Afterward, according to Markazi, "James celebrates by crossing himself and taking a shot of Patron." HOV!
In all seriousness, this is LeBron's reality now. He's less the next Michael Jordan than he is a post-modern entity, at the nexus of insane wealth and mega-celebrity, with new media playing the foil to his mythmaking. To that end, the article was a perfect snapshot of where he is as a person and a celebrity right now.
So hold on: why did the article get pulled?
UPDATE: Via Darren Rovell: ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz tells us why the LeBron Vegas story was pulled: "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."