As everyone searches for even small clues about LeBron James' ultimate free-agent decision, one tweet citing a web developer that scanned LeBron's website spread like wildfire.
Is it possible that James' web team accidentally tipped off his free agent destination because a bunch of blank pages had Cavaliers colors?
On the one hand, one shouldn't put it past James to plan out a grand, multi-platform announcement about a return home. He did announce his decision last cycle on a television show, after all. If he is returning to Cleveland, his website would want to have something ready to go as soon as the decision was made. There have even been rumors that James is planning to post the announcement on his website first before any reporter sees the news.
The King comes home
The King comes home
At the same time, this seems too good to be true. For one thing, web developers aren't generally the first people to know about an athlete's free-agent decision. Thus, if the goal is to have something ready to go right away, web developers often do what journalists do with game stories or even big news stories like this: they plan out the different scenarios in advance, then delete them if they do not come true. (It is worth noting, of course, that the initial report didn't mention finding any pages with Miami Heat colors in there).
For another, the method used to discover the empty pages with Cavaliers colors isn't all that reliable. "For something of this magnitude, it seems fishy," according to one web developer not associated with the project. Generally, pages without already-existing content are updated on servers that cannot be accessed by the general public, even with the Firebug app, which merely inspects a site instead of crawling it.
In other words: if the goal was to find hidden pages that hadn't been completed, it requires using a different app to crawl the page before using Firebug. It's possible the pages were updated on a public server, and it's possible the developer quoted did use another app and didn't say, but those are difficult assumptions to make.
Other developers have attempted to replicate the process used and have been unable to discover the same thing. Since no link to the page was listed, it's hard to see how the original source could have found it.
@chrislittmann unless he had source control access, I'm not sure how he just discovered a new page on the site.— Bryan Roy (@bryanjroy) July 10, 2014
This leaves one of a few scenarios.
- The page may have been public, then made private after the uproar.
- The page never existed.
- The page was just a test page for one possible scenario.