ESPN permanently axes LeBron Vegas story

ESPN on Thursday permanently killed an unflattering LeBron James profile it had previously published, and blamed the reporter for “not properly identifying himself” while researching the piece.

The article, by columnist Arash Markazi, depicted James as someone who “relishes being the center of attention” as handlers infantilize the 25-year-old.

“The more you hang around James, the more you realize he’s still a child wrapped in a 6-foot-8, 250-pound frame,” Markazi wrote in the story, posted at 9:40am ET Wednesday. It was pulled shortly thereafter.

One day later, with the story generating attention it may never have earned if it had been left alone, ESPN was forced to explain its decision.

“We looked into the situation thoroughly and found that Arash did not properly identify himself as a reporter or clearly state his intentions to write a story,” ESPN editor-in-chief Rob King said in a statement. “ will not be posting this story in any form.”

That means it will be difficult — though far from impossible — for fans to read about James flirting with Las Vegas cocktail waitresses in clubs surrounded by naked women covered in rose petals.

Though constantly surrounded by an entourage of security, family and longtime friends, he was disappointed when a club offered him a male waiter, according to the article.

“I wish they’d have one of those girls with no panties do that instead of the guy,” he said as a waiter delivered another bottle of vodka.

Even fellow basketball players seemed shocked at James’ behavior.

In one nightclub, Boston Celtics forward Glen Davis walked past James’ group and surveyed the area “like a painting in a museum, soaking in the images of the go-go dancers…and the costumed man delivering bottles of champagne.”

Davis shook his head, and moved on.

Markazi, the author, accepted the decision in a statement released by his employer.

“I stand by the accuracy of the story in its entirety, but should have been clearer in representing my intent to write about the events I observed,” he said.

It was not be the first time ESPN flirted with James-related controversy. Its own internal watchdog blasted the sports network for what he said were ethical missteps in its recent broadcast of a program devoted to the star’s signing with the Miami Heat.