LeBron James has a lot to carry on his broad shoulders. There is the six-year, $110 million investment the owners of the Miami Heat have in him. There are basketball fans to appease. And there are big-name sponsors who have shelled out big bucks to associate themselves with the top NBA star, among them McDonald's ( MCD) and Nike ( NKE). For most of his career, James was one of the few young phenoms who seemed to pan out, entering the league straight from high school. He was young, likable and talented -- a native of Cleveland who played for the hometown team. But James' decision to pursue free agency left Ohio residents hanging. It was very likely their hometown hero would pack his bags. While there would surely be a fair share of Cavaliers fans who would never forgive their prodigal son, James certainly had the opportunity to exit gracefully and with at least muted good wishes. Many of his critics, deep down, would be thankful for the resurrection of the team he ruled and admit they too would switch employers for a few million more dollars a year. But James let his consultants and handlers pitch him on making the whole contract process a spectacle. Notable was a disastrous, hourlong, ESPN special called The Decision, in which cities vied for his services as though they were reality show contestants. In trying to create drama and build upon James' reputation, all they did was ruin it. James is now one of the more reviled and mocked figures in sports (aside from another classic PR bungler, Tiger Woods).