The Definition of a Bad Interview

The Miami Heat’s shellacking of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night brought back painful memories of how LeBron James landed in Miami in the first place. He announced that he would sign with the Heat on “The Decision,” the nationally televised ESPN show created just for the event.

But what my mind always goes back to is not James’ final words, but instead, the interview that led up to it during this so-called “show.” Reporter Jim Gray and James sat in movie director-type chairs a few feet from each other. If ever there is an instructional guide how NOT to conduct an interview, this is it. Gray did an awful job. It’s hard to put into words how bad it was, but I’ll do my best.

Gray made the whole situation feel more awkward then it already was. I can’t imagine being in Cleveland watching Gray butcher the interview, and then on top of that hear James say that he is “taking his talents to South Beach.” This was a big sports topic of the summer. In fact, sports news doesn’t get much bigger than this, and heading into it I would have expected Gray to ask questions that cut into the heart and soul of LeBron to find out why he truly made the decision to leave his hometown team and play for the Heat.

Well instead, Gray decided to just lob powder-puff question after powder-puff question. I don’t even know what to call it, but it wasn’t a real interview. My favorite question of all was “Do you bite your nails?” Jim Gray, who cares if James bites his nails? Other questions were of this same nonsensical nature. Also, the tone Gray used just made the whole “show” boring, not reflecting at all the excitement and speculation that led up to it.

Before I do any interview, I will always think of Gray and “The Decision,” and I will make sure I do everything the opposite way he did it. An interview needs to feel warm and friendly, otherwise the interviewee will never open up to share some of his/her stronger emotions. If the interview focuses on a difficult or controversial topic, the tough questions need to be asked. They HAVE to be asked. The answers to those questions are what people really want to know. Jim Gray failed at these fundamental interviewing techniques. There is no way I will make the same mistakes.

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