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LeBron's free agent tour to begin in New York, fan backlash soon to follow

Jun 4, 2010, 1:20 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for James_game2.jpgIt could be worse. The rumor that Nike was going to make a LeBron James free agent tour shoe series — with the date he was in each city on it — is not true. Nike shot it down. Maybe because they see where this is headed.

James is going to do a free agency tour, Sam Amick of FanHouse reports. He’s going to start in New York, then talk to New Jersey, then fly to Chicago. Then he writes my favorite line:

Depending on the level of sustained public interest and the discussions with the teams in the respective cities, James will decide at that point whether to continue on to Miami and possibly Los Angeles to see the Clippers.

Whether he talks to these teams about his future is based on the fan reaction to the tour? This is going to end with LeBron less popular than when he started it, if he is not careful.

Going on Larry King tonight during the finals — that’s because it’s about LeBron. At least for LeBron. A public tour for free agency? That’s about wanting — needing? — to be adored by the public. That is about wanting the ego stroked. This could be done quietly, professionally, but that’s not what LeBron apparently wants.

It’s too easy to just compare what LeBron is doing right now to what Kobe is doing right now — watching film, working on his game, finding ways to beat the Celtics that LeBron could not. Valid, but too simple.

Does LeBron not see the wave of public backlash coming toward him? Does he not see that America is going to watch him teasing the hearts of fans of several franchises very publicly, then disappointing some of them? Those close to LeBron may be celebrating him, but a very public tour would turn off so many more. It will erode his marketability.

It’s the weird dichotomy of American sports writing today. The public says they sick of Tiger Woods stories, that they don’t respect or like the man anymore, yet his stories and interviews and tournaments draw more people to read or watch than anything else. Give the people what they want — and if you’re watching and clicking on Tiger, you get more of him, like him or not.

So it will be with the summer of LeBron. There will be a mountain of coverage. Including on this site. Because he drives traffic, because people tune in to see what he is doing. But that is a very different thing than saying all publicity is good publicity. That an ego being fed turns off the public, even if we turn in to watch.

Stay classy, LeBron. It’s not all about you.

  1. cnb - Jun 4, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    I would be wary of his recruitment to any team. Sure you have a guy that puts up numbers in the regular season, is exciting, crowd pleasing. But that crowd has to be ready to watch the NBA Finals on tv. That performance against the celtics drastically changed my view on LeBron. Kobe, the greatest player in the NBA, Michael, Dwayne do not have it in there souls or bodies to not care about a game that big. Give me a champion athlete not a talented baller who requires outside forces, attention and hype, to perform. The others here are made of it and it is within them that there greatness comes from.

  2. KC big daddy - Jun 4, 2010 at 5:30 PM

    Wait a damn minute! Did the great Kobe Bryant not shoot two times in his final playoff game just 4 years ago? Did he notpouy and give up in that game only to ant out of Laker land? Michael and magic always went out with guns blazzing!! Don’t knock Lebron for a bad game, Kobe went out like a pouting punk!!

  3. mca - Jun 5, 2010 at 11:34 AM

    KC, Kobe did do that but the differrence is kobe has earned his fame. Lebron hasn’t done anything, hasn’t won a ring, hasn’t led his team to anything. And yet he’s starting to look like a kardashian more than one of the nba’s elite players, in that he wants to be courted, and followed and adored by all. Be driven to win, because your a fighter inside and because of your drive, not to garner approval, acceptance and adoration of fans. If he plays hard, and wins, he’ll earn that respect an adoration. But going on a media tour when he hasn’t accomplished anything. Come on. Love him or hate him, kobe doesn’t care, he wants to win, for himself, because he’s a winner. Lebron needs to grow up. The king, yeah right, maybe in a couple of years, right now he’s just a prince.

  4. todd - Jun 5, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    cnb. I agree with you, what he did in game 5 changed the views of millions regarding him. It was a microcosym of an overall larger problem. If he quit on his team, then possibly quits on the city of Cleveland, who in their right mind would even remotely think that he’ll be loyal to their town? His “entourage” is simply leading him down a path to his own self destruction. His priorities are everywhere except for where they need to be: which is: “Shut up and win”. He’s only gonna kill the public perception of himself completely with this “tour” stunt, completely undermine his own market value, and ultimately not be wanted anywhere because he won’t commit to anyone but himself.

  5. Darnell - Jun 5, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    If Lebron James does this he’s an ass.

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