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Like it or not, LeBron James' 'Decision' is all part of the plan, and it's working

Jul 7, 2010, 3:05 PM EDT

James_numberone.pngWhen word broke that LeBron James would be announcing his decision regarding the biggest free agency signing in NBA history in a one-hour special on ESPN, the criticism exploded the internet like Brazil going down in flames did to Twitter.

Everyone and their mother wants to point out LeBron’s ego, his unfathomable self-concept bent out of control. The word “ridiculous” has been used about a zillion times along with other nastier words. James is construed as being overly self-important by the same people who have posted thousands of stories over the last week about him. Believe me. I’m one of them.

And I’m here to tell you that James’ decision surely strikes of arrogance. And it strikes of super-ego and not in the Freudian sense. It reeks of a media culture gone overboard, having lost any sense of perspective or rationale, and it cries out a desperate need for attention from one of the most powerful men in sports.

I’m also here to tell you it’s genius. And that it’s exactly what LeBron James should do.

Recognize that the people who are saying they won’t watch this debacle, who are filled with outrage over James’ little dog and pony show? James doesn’t need them. Doesn’t care about them. They’re going to follow what he does anyway. He’s already got them. These are sports fans and media who are dialed into the NBA. They know enough about James to dislike the way he chews his nails on the sideline or his mannerisms in interviews.

You know how they know those things to dislike them? They watch him. All the time. They’re immersed in sports media. And so those people have nothing James is trying to reach. They are not his target with this. If they were, he’d simply release a statement or leak it to the most convenient reporter, many of whom are currently criticizing him but would beat their own mother with a roll of quarters in a sock to get word of what jersey James is rocking next season.

He’s got no use for us, because he already has us.

But you know what he does have use for? Everybody else.

James has often had the term “global icon” tied back to his business goals and branding image. It’s a strong term and one that has a lot tied to it. It’s difficult for a sports entity to reach that kind of level, especially in a day and age where things live and die in a matter of months (the Jonas Brothers were a really big deal two years ago; cower in fear Justin Bieber). Athletes have an even more difficult row to hoe. Most of the brand expansion opportunities are controlled by their team, by their league, by the networks that air the games they play in. They don’t have that much power on their own. But James and his team have recognized this moment and are using it as a launchpad that will directly put them on another level with the people that matter most. Casual sports fans.

Thursday night, in the middle of the NBA offseason when nothing is really going on in the actual sport, 90% of all sports bar televisions will be turned on LeBron James. In Kansas City, Missouri, a local bar called Lew’s is having a “LeBron James Watch Party.”

There is no NBA team in Kansas City. Nor in St. Louis, or anywhere close to nearby until you hit Oklahoma City.

That’s how much impact James’ event is having.

Try and imagine tomorrow night, as all across America, all across the world televisions are flipped to ‘LeBron James Presents: The LeBron James Show! Starring: LeBron James!” People who don’t even normally watch the NBA, who didn’t catch a lick of the Eastern Conference Semifinals will be seeing his face everywhere. Everyone will be betting on where he goes, talking about his personality, even discussing how ridiculous the event is, even as they keep watching. Boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, spouses, brothers, sisters, business associates of people that want to watch will all get caught up in it, even for the hour. He’s the most famous person in America tomorrow night. Think about that.

You know who doesn’t care if something is a complete circus? The ringmaster. Because he’s counting your hard-earned bills after you’re done staring at the Bearded Lady.

The show is being sponsored by Vitamin Water, McDonalds, and Nike. That’s the kind of push he’s getting. Yes, those are all James sponsors. But you don’t think Burger King, Red Bull, or Reebok wouldn’t have jumped through fire to get spots? He’s donating the proceeds to charity, which means that when it plays to the casual fan, it softens the blow. Sure, bloggers and pundits and NBA die-hards will retch at the spectacle, but the middle-class father of two, sitting at home flipping channels and watching after he heard a guy from work talk about it? It plays well with him.

And that’s what James is shooting for. It makes him more than just a basketball player. What he does matters. So much, that you and all your friends remember where you were when he announced who he was signing with. It’s too much. Of course it’s too much. You have to be too much in order to get penetration in the biggest niche market of all: everyone else.

You can be disgusted by it, you’re well within reason to. But also bear in mind that James’ pursuit is something more than what just being a great basketball player can do for him. He wants to have a business empire that extends beyond the fans that buy his jerseys and cheer for him at games. He wants a place in the cultural and business atmosphere that is rarefied and extremely difficult to reach. It takes an inordinate amount of planning, expense, and effort to execute.

Thursday night, Lebron James can put himself on the map in a way few athletes, few people, ever have. The world stops for him tomorrow night.  We can turn our cheek or up our nose or whatever we’d like but this isn’t about a handful of people, it’s about the world.

And right now, King James has it in the palm of his hand.

  1. Boney - Jul 7, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    I was expecting less basketball shtick-cliche and more solid output :-\
    c’mon now HPBasketball, you know you can do better :(

  2. Sassbottom - Jul 7, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    “Road to hoe?”
    Why would you hoe a road?
    You hoe a row. As in farming.

  3. UM - Jul 7, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    its Prince James until he wins a ring
    now put aside all the crap talk about him wanting to expand his image and become a billionaire, basically what your saying is, he wants to be a brand wants to reach out beyond basketball so essentially he wants to be like Michael Jordan and that just won’t happen.

  4. UM - Jul 7, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    he is trying to be like Michael Jordan, it just won’t happen

  5. dr.3000 - Jul 7, 2010 at 3:28 PM

    count me as one of the millions and millions who won’t be watching.

  6. Hmm - Jul 7, 2010 at 3:37 PM

    Of course you believe that, your’re Matt Moore.. Anyone who has ever read your articles knows you’d take that angle.

  7. sda - Jul 7, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    NBA die-hards will wretch at the spectacle….
    wretch
    1 : a miserable person : one who is profoundly unhappy or in great misfortune
    2 : a base, despicable, or vile person
    No they won’t. They will RETCH….
    retch
    1 : transitive verb : vomit
    2 : intransitive verb : to make an effort to vomit
    Get a dictionary, please…..

  8. DGtheEnigma - Jul 7, 2010 at 3:43 PM

    LBJ and his “friend” advisers have no idea the damage they’re doing to his brand. They’re not enhancing it like they believe — a website and twitter! really?! — what they are doing is raising expectations to unimaginable levels.
    If LBJ doesn’t win a championship next year — no matter the team (Cavs included) — the calls and whispers of LBJ being a bust will be justified.
    Simply put, I never understood why — besides athleticism and age — Wade was not considered the “cream” of the free agency crop. Wade won a ring with basically the same team LBJ had last year…in 2006!

  9. mc TLG - Jul 7, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    The author makes a few very valid points, but the fact of the matter is, LeBron will be LOSING a lot of those die hard NBA followers that “he already has” by putting on this charade. Losing fan loyalty will turn out to be a mistake.
    If you want to donate funds to the Boys and Girls Club, WRITE A CHECK.
    I as well as a handful of friends and people I know will not be watching either.

  10. Marky Mark - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    For it to be really fun, he should do it lottery style, and countdown his preferences until he gets to the actual team he’s going to. Imagine how crushing that would be to watch for fans of the teams involved. Even MORE crushing than what we currently have. :)

  11. ThatGuy - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    Ya, Wade won a ring with the same team… unless you factor in that Shaq was still a 20-10 guy then, as opposed to the 10-5 guy he was with LeBron. Wade was definatly the leader and MVP of that finals but he had more help then LeBron.

  12. Keith - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:13 PM

    So are his sponsors paying him anything for those spots? Will he be in the spots, then he will make money, correct? Is all that money going to charity or is like a politician and tell his version of the truth?
    Thanks…

  13. johnandmel99 - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    but you read the article…you will watch it.

  14. nivram - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    I’m from Clev. and love what Lebron has done for our city and the excitement he’s created in the spring when we have baseball and basketball bashes to get excited about. Good luck to him wherever he goes. We have an owner we love and is capable of not embarrasing the city should the “king” leave home!

  15. Lebron's Inner Self - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    LeBron James sucks c0ck.

  16. Colin Zvosec - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    Hey! I’ve been to Lew’s. Not a bad place…

  17. dr.3000 - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:49 PM

    I really won’t. this crap is just insane, and it’s an embarrassment to the league.

  18. Clean Cut - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    i really hope this move really opens the eyes to the public. James is a fantastic player, but people should realize james is all about self-image and wanting to be a global brand, to be famous, to be the first billionaire. He said it himself that it is one of his goals.
    Why do you think he does the chalk routine? He knows it people eat it up. Why does he dance around and draw attention to himself all the time? I am baffled when people accuse kobe as selfish but gush over lebron. Let’s be fair now. Kobe is selfish not because he wants stats or attention – the guy wants to win so bad – he is willing to leave his teammates to dry and never pass to them if they don’t keep up, shoot well or show the work ethic (think overweight shaq or kwame unable to catch passes). On the flip side if they do show effort and work ethic – he loves them – think fisher, think ron artest, even josh powell is in kobe’s good graces despite a lack of talent because “effort” is there. Lebron is selfish because he does what is best for lebron. You think he passes out of the goodness of his heart? Believe me he loves the stats he puts up. Remember lebron trying to one-up kobe at madison garden after he kobe scored 62? During the olympics lebron rarely passed. During games, lebron is always strategically passing so he gets the ball back for the shot. Don’t be surprised by what he is doing folks. Don’t just believe the picture the nba or the media paints. Just watch his actions and let it speak for itself.

  19. Kyle - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:10 PM

    I think LeBron’s ego is totally out of control. Making this some sort of public ceremony is a total joke. Durant and Kobe just sign their contracts quietly and go on working towards winning a title. This proves LeBron craves the spotlight and I think that he is for sure leaving. http://bit.ly/ay2unn

  20. Scott Cagle Pensacola Best Buy - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    white people dont act like this

  21. John - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    I have a feeling LeBron is going to announce something completely unexpected. There is a good chance he has had his people leaking misinformation from the get go, just to come out and say he’s going to play with Timmy and the Spurs or something insane like that.

  22. Scott Cagle Pensacola Best Buy - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    white people dont act like this, plain and simple

  23. LogicMan - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:25 PM

    Love the concept ;-)

  24. Kamil - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:46 PM

    Lebron is onenof the most dominant players in the league. No doubt about it. Stop criticizing lebron for his decisions because none of you own him. An assist is not just a pass. It’s when you pass to a player who scores with that pass. Lebron lead in apg. He can’t be that selfish. Then you can’t speak of Kobe and say it’s ok because he wants to win. Like lebron would be angry if he won a ring?

  25. Peaches - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:51 PM

    Aye ThatGuy..Are u serious Wade had more help then Lebron? U must be one of the thousands of Cleveland fans that always talk that “No Help” nonsense when yall get bounced out the playoffs every year. Lebron had Moe,JJ,Andy,plus Ant.Jamison. Not to mention he(Lebron) personally asked for Shaq. I dont get how u can have the best team all season, but when u lose he(Lebron) has no help.SMFH

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