LeBron's decision and Brazil's World Cup humiliation: some of this week's best sportswriting

Stick on the kettle and get stuck in to this week’s picks.

Brazil's 7-1 defeat against Germany dominated Wednesday's sports pages.
Brazil's 7-1 defeat against Germany dominated Wednesday's sports pages.
Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

1. Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.

In this year’s biggest American sports scoop, LeBron James penned a first-person essay with Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins to explain why he is going home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

2. While Jenkins and James’s people worked out the details, Jenkins mostly kept his bosses in the dark. Stone says he talked once or twice a day with his writer, but Jenkins seemed almost afraid that talking about it would ruin the chances of the idea becoming reality.

How did SI pull off their coup? Deadspin’s Barry Petcheskey and Dave McKenna went behind the scenes on the making of the LeBron story.

3. Down on the field David Luiz and Júlio César were holding aloft the shirt of Neymar like a holy relic. The camera picked out a woman holding a placard that read, “Don’t worry—Neymar’s soul is here!” It was as though Neymar had died and was looking down at his former teammates from heaven, rather than watching them on television. The collective emotional frenzy of the scene was awe-inspiring. For a moment every Brazilian, and many neutrals, succumbed to the same seductive illusion. What force could stand against the combined passion of these 11 Brazilian warriors, the soul of Neymar, the heart of Thiago Silva, and 200 million supporters?

Ken Early was in Belo Horizonte on Brazilian football’s night of shame as the World Cup hosts crashed out in a humiliating 7-1 defeat against Germany. Why did they lose?

4. Before the match began the Seleção were given solid gold watches stating: ‘For the World Champions’. The carnival float that would transport the Brazilian winners around Rio was ready, as was the pre-planned victory parade. Millions of t-shirts proclaiming victory slogans had been printed. Even the Frenchman Jules Rimet – waiting to hand over his delicate golden namesake – had written his victory speech lauding Brazilian winners. Politicians predictably joined in, with Rio’s Mayor glorifying the Brazilian team: ‘in less than a few hours you will be hailed as champions…I already salute as victors’.

Tuesday’s defeat will take its place alongside the 1950 World Cup final as the defining moments in Brazilian football. In Bed With Maradona’s Layth Yousif remembers the Maracanazo and the tormented soul of Moacyr Barbosa.

Gavin Cooney
Reports From Qatar

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5. The fall from an ordinary perch is a universal story. Few of us get through life without one taste of failure and disgrace. But the fall from a very great height is a different order of experience altogether, because it happens to a different kind of person—the kind who was driven to climb that high in the first place. Should it come as a surprise that such a person—this man right here—makes a lousy penitent?

Esquire’s John H. Richardson meets Lance Armstrong to ask: what is left after the fall?

6.Robin van Persie’s diving header was great and everything, but the most impressive maneuver of the 2014 World Cup came in the opening round match between Iran and Nigeria. In the 79th minute of a scoreless draw, the FIFA cameraman panned, zoomed, and navigated his way through a sea of dudes to alight on an attractive blond woman in the third row. You can almost hear the shouts of glee from the production truck: Giiiiiiiiiiirl!

Slate’s Josh Levin introduces us to Andy Sidaris, the man who invented sports television’s ‘honey shot’.

Do I want to start on Sunday? Yeah, me and 30,000 other Cork hurlers

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Niall Kelly

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