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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. pwebs97 - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:33 PM

    Nothing but an overpaid nog. go back to the hood if you can steal a hooptie. Sports are way over paid and that is why I do not give a (((((((( about them

  2. pwebs97 - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:38 PM

    Go rund ogs with Vick they be from da hood

  3. tauvil - Jul 7, 2010 at 11:10 PM

    Allegedly. I’ve lived in Chi long enough to watch Jordon walk out of the strip club (VIP’s) several times with a pair of blondes under his arm (while married). Once athletes of any pro sport reach “icon” status, they’re void of paparazzi exposure. Too important to the kids who need role models apparently.
    Unless of course a hotel staff files a rape charge of course…

  4. Big John - Jul 7, 2010 at 11:10 PM

    Surprised that King James hasn’t dug up Micheal Jackson for this one!

  5. Talco - Jul 7, 2010 at 11:17 PM

    What is the problem? Mr. James could only do what he did because there is a market for it. What is the problem? This young guy has too much power? Anybody who hates Mr. James to see Dr. Phil.

  6. walk - Jul 7, 2010 at 11:20 PM

    It struck me a huge ego and i was angry for some reason. Then i listened to next part of the story and realised a significant portion of advertising ia going to charity. Bravo sir. Using his stardom to benefit others not just himself, i am impressed.

  7. Anonymous - Jul 7, 2010 at 11:38 PM

    lol… yea bc there is 0 difference in Shaq at 35 than Shaq at 38

  8. Lemonella - Jul 8, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    Love your post (word police), as I am truly tired of usage of bad grammar. Thanks. LOLOLOLOLOL

  9. GiraffeBoy - Jul 8, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    Hey LeBron! Have you seen Kobe’s FIVE championship rings?
    Only kings have rings!

  10. rc - Jul 8, 2010 at 12:19 AM

    what a joke queen james is. im tired of this guy. he aint won a thang in the nba. we talkn pro ball he might have been king in hi school but this da reL WORLD. espn should be slapped silly for force feedin us this crap. can we wait till the guy ACTUALLY does somethin. why do nebody care about this me me me guy. what i dont get is how espn went after T.O. for bein all bout himself but lebron does it then they give him an hour long show to promote the queen n his garbage. what a joke this guy is. he wont shake hands when loses b;lames the coach the gm when will it b his fault.

  11. VegasRose - Jul 8, 2010 at 12:44 AM

    “smart?” lol. I wouldn’t waste 5 min. on it. Catch it on Headline news. Self-serving is what it is; no one human being is worthy of this.

  12. JD - Jul 8, 2010 at 12:51 AM

    What is funny is that most of you will turn it on at some point. lmao!!
    Anyhow more power to him its the american way to make what you can while your are here.

  13. BuggerBobinBolivia - Jul 8, 2010 at 12:52 AM

    LeBron will lose nothing. He will be the king of the world for about an hour. Then he will be the king of Cleveland or Chicago or Miami for 6 years. And where did he get all this power? We gave it to him. All these smug asses that say “how dare he” “what an ego” “who does he think he is” He is who we made him.

  14. Rick - Jul 8, 2010 at 12:59 AM

    Its working People…’re talking about him……Your’e Listening/reading about him, so he’s already won…DUH!!!!
    Ignore him…he can’t stand/handle it. Think about it

  15. katri - Jul 8, 2010 at 1:44 AM

    I’ll be watching!Can’t wait!!

  16. Christopher Knopf - Jul 8, 2010 at 1:53 AM

    Can’t believe the sobbing and hand-wringing whining going on over James’ preference how, when and where to release his decision re which team he’ll be signing with. It’s a basketball player, for God’s sake, involving a team and a game. It’s not about Afghanistan, health care, taxes, jobs, or how to pay your kids’ way through college. People act as though he owes them some sort of prior declaration to his announcement. Based on what? The vast majority have never attended one of his games, nor spent a dime on a ticket to do so. Seems to me the guy’s his own man, which drives some people nuts.

  17. Red Baron - Jul 8, 2010 at 3:34 AM

    You’re right…..Brett Favre’s Black!

  18. RedBaron1134 - Jul 8, 2010 at 3:37 AM

    You’re right, Brett Favre’s …Black!

  19. mikedl - Jul 8, 2010 at 3:50 AM

    Not sure why everyone’s caring so much about Lebrons ego. So he is taking center stage tonight.. who gives a sh.t.. if you don’t care don’t watch. Every single player in the NBA minus a few have giant ego’s but they just don’t have the chance to flaunt it like Lebron. Has it even been said that this was Lebron’s idea? Its the off season for basketball and the NBA has a chance to gain a ton of viewers, maybe the NBA had something to do with it. Its funny Brett Favre was brought up before, because its possible that Lebron is doing this to make a steady deadline for his decision so he doesn’t treat every NBA team that wants him like worthless trash like Brett did to his teams. It seems to me that there is a lot of good intention to the special tonight that a lot of people look past because they’re haters, but who cares I guess.. watch the show if you want, don’t if you don’t, and in the end were going to find out what team Lebron picked just like we now know about Wade, Bosh, Boozer, and Stoudamire.

  20. RJ - Jul 8, 2010 at 8:29 AM

    “white people dont act like this, plain and simple”
    Really? How about Brett Favre?

  21. RJ - Jul 8, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    “white people dont act like this, plain and simple”
    Really? How about Brett Favre?

  22. mark kempner - Jul 8, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    matt moore you have got it all wrong lebron will lose all these new fans just like the Jonas brothers. push comes to showv, he needs the rings

  23. Steve - Jul 8, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    Michelle Wie, Lebron James = marketing genuises, able to milk money and fame out of suckers. Lots of potential. Losers. I will give it to LBJ. He can wip up a frenzy about nothing. I respect Wade & Bosh. They considered their options and made their decision. LBJ is a pretty needy, insecure person who needs to be talked about, but he cannot do the one thing that will ensure that people will talk about him. . .win.

  24. Scott Cagle Pensacola Best Buy - Jul 8, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    Bret does not turn the NFL into bad reality television for his own personal gain. He just waits until the last minuet to decide every year. And oh yea (errrrr)he is ancient. If you want to talk comparison lets see, does lebron have a kennel?

  25. Betchula - Jul 8, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Finally, someone (other than myself) who truly gets it. He’s a man making a decision for the rest of his life. What’s the problem and why so much hate? He is entitled to decide where and how he earns his money. If you are into Basketball, it doesn’t matter if you watch ESPN tonight or not. By tomorrow, all those who refuse to watch or even pay attention (actually, you are paying attention), when you turn on your computer, take a gander at the morning/evening news, watch SportCenter, picks up a newspaper, everyone will know where Lebron James will be playing in the coming season – in the NBA!

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