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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. geo59 - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    It’s funny how everyone is so quick to criticize Lebron for doing this ESPN special tomorrow night. We don’t even know what the contents of the show will be. It’s already been announced that Lebron will reveal his decision at the top of the show. Now if the rest of the show is all about Lebron, his highlights, etc., then maybe he should be criticized. But what if it’s not. What if it’s about all the free agents, or about the Boys & Girls clubs, or about the NBA in general? Then there may be some crow eaten. Anyway, I’ve heard two reports now that the interview will be held in Greenwich, CT. One report even said it would be done at Alan Houston’s house. If this is true then Lebron is going to the Knicks. Which makes the most sense to me anyway. So that’s my prediction. I will be watching the show, despite the fact that I do get an overdose of Lebron now and then. But he gets the benefit of the doubt since all he ever did was play ball. The media and the corporate machines are the ones that turned him into the king. Can’t blame the kid for deciding to create a corporate presence and a financial empire. I thought that was the American way, the American dream, you know, rags to riches. Funny how people are so quick to criticize Lebron for doing what other founders of corporate empires, who happen to be in different demographic categories, have done.

  2. Peaches - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:59 PM

    Thats because white people have the world handed to them on a silver platter. This is chump change for the white people.

  3. JAY - Jul 7, 2010 at 6:17 PM

    Scott isn’t Brett Favre white ?? and what about the spectacle Earnhardt Jr. made when he switched teams… now go to your room and think about what a Taint Bernard you are.

  4. TominNH - Jul 7, 2010 at 6:52 PM

    I think people and fans will never view lebron james in quite the same way! He’s protraying himself as a self important, self indulgent athlete that people rail about! And he hasnt even led his team to a title yet and seems to have given less than his best effort against the Celtics in the last playoff games! lebron is NO king! In the space of a few weeks, he’s gone from star basketball player to a prima donna!

  5. hanky - Jul 7, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    No ring no kingdom as far as i know he’s just another karl malone so far.

  6. ron - Jul 7, 2010 at 7:17 PM

    he can’t win any playoff games or titles, so this is the only way he can stay in the news.he talks about himself in third person, calls himself king and he has never won anything.he is just another punk with money. his mom taught him well. not!

  7. Finner - Jul 7, 2010 at 7:25 PM

    All this from the guy who choked in playoffs and rolled over for his team. Figures he might run into the arms of Wade. He can’t win championships as the go to guy.

  8. Martyks - Jul 7, 2010 at 7:41 PM

    Can you imagine Larry Bird’s reaction to someone running this kind of idea past him? I’d keep the steak knives away from him for a while. This isn’t black vs white though. It’s old school vs no school. To understand the reaction of people, it pays to get a higher education. I won’t be watching and I’ll be less interested in where he ends up than I would have been if he would have handled this with a little dignity and humility. It’s pathetic.

  9. Jack Redd - Jul 7, 2010 at 7:48 PM

    Quite right, and have you noticed that “weather or not” is coming into common usage?

  10. doug davidson - Jul 7, 2010 at 8:26 PM

    He should go to Pheonix where he can raise pidgeons withe Iron Mike

  11. Lebron who? - Jul 7, 2010 at 8:38 PM

    Who is LeBron James?

  12. wlockridge - Jul 7, 2010 at 8:49 PM

    I live in Northeast Ohio and maybe it is working for TV but I’m personally sick of hearing about it. I don’t give a rat’s a$$ where James goes just as long as he get’s it over with so I can quit hearing about it. He’s not all of that.

  13. Tess - Jul 7, 2010 at 8:49 PM

    Did everybody else miss the part where ALL THE PROFITS FROM THE SPONSORSHIP ARE GOING TO CHARITY? The man is a humanitarian. LeBron, Cleveland loves you!

  14. Tyrone - Jul 7, 2010 at 8:51 PM

    Moore is right..simply by commenting on the article, he has you dialed in or you wouldn’t even care. James could care less about the haters. As a fan, I will definitely be watching. Why? Cause I love the sport of basketball. If you don’t care..don’t watch. Now you can get back to your porn. Sorry for the interruption.

  15. Tony - Jul 7, 2010 at 8:54 PM

    Wade wins the big games, LeBron loses then runs off the court. Against Boston Wade averaged over 30 points a game with Boston puting 2 and 3 men on him because the Heat had nobody else. Against Boston LeBron folded up, they made him look like the fool he is! He will never sign with Miami because then he would have to play a long side Wade every game and everyone could see he is nothing but show and Wade is the better player!

  16. chipster rules - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    i plan on having a bowel movement during his self adoration party.

  17. T,G.Jr. - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:23 PM

    Lebron James,is a dirt bag I grew up in New Jersey,when the state did not even have a team and i rooted for the Knicks with Willis Reed,Walt Frazier,and Bill Bradley when they were a good team.Michael Jordan,Kobe Bryant have multiple trophies and this scum bag has none but yet he wants to grand stand and take up and hour to announce what team he is going to play for this season.I mean even Dwayne Wade,has a ring and did not grand stand but this a…… wants too.i agree with you Boney,I am going to have as serious bowel movement and send the proceeds to this A..h… what a dick he is.

  18. Sal - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:24 PM

    Lebron James is Nike and Media Made. I’ve never seen ESPN prostitute themselves this bad; LeBron James Ego is bigger now than it was in high school and that’s all he knows. Look the dude is nothing more than a drama queen. Seriously does he need one hour to tell us where he’s going. Jordan’s words upon his return were, “I’m Back”. I suppose LeBron likes to make headlines on July, not on June, when it really counts. Ha ha ha suckers; and all along Kobe glows come June. 5 championships, two without Shaq, possibly 3 peat come next year. LeBron doesn’t care about no one except himself. He loves Himself, the self proclaimed King. really? he maybe a High School queen; the dude is surrounded by his High School friends, making major decision for him, that without LeBron wouldn’t have that type of pull. If you ask me all I see in LeBron is a Zebra leading a bunch of Zebras. He’s no Lion that’s for sure. I believe it was General Patton, who once said,”I rather have a lion leading 20 jackasses, than 20 jackasses leading a lion. And that’s what I see in your boy LeBron. Nothing but a jackass.

  19. BuyWarriorsNowPlzThx - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:53 PM

    “You know who doesn’t care if something is a complete circus? The ringmaster. Because he’s counting your hard-earned bills…. ”
    Nailed it in one.

  20. JuliaB - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:00 PM

    I hit this link accidentally and it intrigued me. American basketball always makes me laugh – I lived in the US for about 10 years. I’ve never heard of this guy. ‘The world’s watching’ – hahaha. Seriously… there is no ‘world’ about American basketball.

  21. Im Just Sayin - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:05 PM

    Uhm….the whole point is to get more people talking about him and his choice, whether you agree or not with his actions. Its buzz, its PR, its chatter. That’s the whole idea and based upon the diversity of responses, it’s working. I’m just sayin….

  22. mwilltru15 - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:12 PM

    “White people dont act like this, plain and simple.”
    Wrong. Think Steve Jobs at Apple.

  23. Lem1209 - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:19 PM

    Meh, at least LeBron never raped anyone.

  24. Cleveland Insider - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:19 PM

    I have it from reliable sources he will shock the basketball world and announce his retirement to pursue a pro football career.

  25. Lem1209 - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:23 PM

    Meh. At least LeBron never raped anyone.

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