Even if you take ESPN at its word regarding every aspect of this week's brouhaha over a spiked report about LeBron James' evening out in Las Vegas - see earlier posts, and this fine account from Sandomir of The Times - it is impossible to sympathize with the network as it faces skepticism at every turn.

The network is reaping what it has sown over many years from its overly chummy relationships with sports figures in general and from the infamous July 8 James special, "The Decision," in particular.

On the surface it was noble, I suppose, to pull a story on the premise that the reporter had not properly identified himself as he hung out with James' entourage at Tao, but ESPN's sensitivity naturally led to speculation it did not want anger or embarrass The King and his court.

Was that it, or was it purely a journalistic decision? I don't know, but it's not unfair to wonder.

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