What's the Real Reason ESPN Removed its LeBron James-Partying-in-Vegas Story?

By Jason McIntyre

1) So, uh, when is the story getting posted again, and if so, will it be any different than the version that already appeared online?

2) The “draft” sure looked ready. The headline, subhead, photos, captions – everything was in place. Everyone at ESPN knows it was on the budget, so it isn’t like this story came out of nowhere. How does the ‘usual editorial process’ work?

The theories for the removal are many:

* Did Markazi really have access to LeBron’s table? As in, why would Maverick Carter ever let a reporter get within earshot of LeBron at dinner and at a club? Markazi frequently writes about Vegas and is heavily connected there. (Based on this blog post, Markazi was in Vegas specifically for LeBron’s party)
* Is anyone else somewhat frightened by the fact that a non-entity like Maverick Carter could have Norby’s ear?
* Between ESPN’s many platforms and its commercials and the “Car wash” through Bristol … can you think of an athlete bigger than LeBron that ESPN is in bed with?

We do know that the story was highly anticipated at ESPN, and it was on the Page 1 budget Wednesday morning. Markazi, who previously worked at SI, has clammed up. You’ll notice neither he nor ESPN LA editor Eric Neel have tweeted about the situation (nobody at ESPN has). It has only been 24 hours since the story was taken offline, so ESPN could still be weighing its options about whether to re-post the story, edit something out and re-post it, or just hope a big-time athlete gets in trouble with the law today or tomorrow.

The two names at ESPN that keep popping up in talks with WWL employees about the situation are Norby Williamson and senior editor David Kraft. More as we get it. [photo: Getty]