When Bob DeAngelo got the call, he almost died.
He’ll never forget it. It was July 4, 2010, and DeAngelo was following orders. His wife needed the windows washed. She didn’t care that he’d just got back from biking across the country to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich. The windows needed cleaning.
So there he was, up on the ladder, when his son handed him the phone.
On the other end of the line was a man he didn’t know, a man named Mark Dowley.
“He said, ‘I’m about to tell you a big secret you can’t tell anyone or I’m going to shoot you,” remembers DeAngelo, then the executive director of the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club.
Dowley was an associate of LeBron James’, and the secret was that he wanted to use the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club’s gym for The Decision, an ESPN-produced live broadcast of James announcing where he would play basketball next season, the most anticipated sports news in the world. And he needed it in four days.
“I nearly fell off the ladder,” says DeAngelo laughing. “The plan was, they wanted to keep it a secret and they were going to record it in our gym, from the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, basically.”
Dowley lived in Greenwich and LeBron would also be in the area attending Carmlelo Anthony’s July 10 wedding. And James had been working with the Boys and Girls Club of America, so the Greenwich location, a red brick building in one of the nation’s wealthiest zip codes, made the most sense.
DeAngelo was told not to tell anyone but just a couple of staff members. He wasn’t even permitted to alert the police.
One of the people DeAngelo told was Don Palmer, the Club’s Program Director at the time.
“He said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but LeBron James is going to come up to the Boys and Girls Club with ESPN and he’s going to make his announcement on where he’s going to play on Thursday night,” remembers Palmer. “I was like are you kidding me?”
The announcement, of course, is best known as The Decision. A decision the entire basketball world had been waiting months for. Where was the greatest basketball player in the world going to play next season? And that decision would emanate from the gymnasium of a Boys and Girls Club in one of the toniest of neighborhoods.
“I was like ‘Holy Moly,’” says Palmer.
The news that was supposed to remain secret, though, got out a day before the planned event.
“On Wednesday, somebody leaked it,” says DeAngelo, who claims he never found out who. “But in a split second it just went crazy. Our phones went nuts. Emails went nuts. And then it became a big security issue.
“And that’s how it came to be.”
Ten years ago tonight, at a little before 9 p.m., Lebron James was escorted into the gym of the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich by two of its members, to announce his Decision, with 50 Club kids, Club staff, ESPN TV crews, interviewer Jim Gray and 2020 presidential hopeful Kanye West, looking on.
It was beyond surreal. Ten years later it’s still that.
“You didn’t understand the magnitude of it till you got there that night,” says Palmer.
Palmer first got to the Boys and Girls Club facility, which is just off Exit 3 on I-95, at about