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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. Matt D - Jul 8, 2010 at 12:00 PM

    Actually, I think LeBron should be commended for keeping his ego in check. The perceived inflation of ego is media generated. It would consume most men, but LeBron takes it in stride. This article no less is filled with hyperboles.
    This hype means nothing. A NBA championship means everything. Think about it. It has taken Kobe’s five championships just to keep the media dogs off his heels. Still, the whispers remains, “Is he better than Michael”?

  2. DK Anderson - Jul 8, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    LeBron James: worst self-absorption-to-accomplishment ratio is sports. James is only a big deal to those who actually think the NBA’s regular season means anything.

  3. joe fan - Jul 8, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Lebron=Joke. Nice try LJ handlers you will piss off all the fans in NY,NJ,Miami, and Chicago after he picks “surprise” the Cavs. Lebron brand-dead.

  4. terry - Jul 8, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    If the ‘decision’ is announced on station WGAF I will watch it
    I am SO outa here

  5. mikedl - Jul 8, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    are you kidding me… you think Lebron is making more of a reality show.. He is going on the air for an hour, making his decision in the first 10 mins. Brett Favre flip flops between decisions like a fat kid in an ice cream shop. He’s taken the medias attention for a whole offseason when Lebron is taking up one hour of one night. I realize the medias been following him around the clock, but it wasnt caused by any wrong doing on his part. He hasn’t hinted to what his decision was going to be like Favre did (where he hinted toward multiple decisions in 1 week).

  6. -Slap- - Jul 8, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    I find the author’s apparent lack of self control fairly comical. He truly believes he has no other choices to make with his life.
    Sports has changed so much in the last 35 years. I’ve gone from fan to diehard fan to casual spectator to guy who couldn’t care less about these ridiculous egomaniacs and can’t imagine why anyone ever would.

  7. mikeylikesit - Jul 8, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    yeha but the differenve between him and durant and kobe is that as soon as everyone knew that bosh and wade were also free agents and that lebron wanted to go to a contender, the whole world started asking “what if this and that happened?”.

  8. joe - Jul 8, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    I just laugh at all of the jealousy, envy and contempt people have for these basketball players. All of their money, every penny, is earned legally. Unlike the multitude of Wall Street,corporate and government thugs who rob the elderly and other hard working citizens of their retirement and life savings every day.
    Sure, these guys make a lot of money for playing basketball but their ranks are tiny and elite and their salaries are just a drop in the bucket compared to the corporate fat cats who pay them.
    This hoopla is generated by their agents and promoters who also have a financial stake in their popularity. The more people watch these circuses, the more people will give to these player’s charities. In fact, the proceeds from this one hour ESPN show are going to charity.
    These players are showmen, people. That’s what they do….put on a show. If you don’t like it change the channel or don’t buy tickets. You don’t even have to buy the products that they endorse. It’s your choice. If you wanna whine, whine about the people who are robbing you blind every day with your money and you have no choice in paying them or watching them do it.

  9. NBA 2K11 - Jul 8, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    “…It’s already been announced that Lebron will reveal his decision at the top of the show”. I’m glad geo59 pointed this out.
    If this is true ESPN didn’t think this through at all. Everyone tuning in is going to change the channel after they get his decision. What’s the point of watching the rest of the hour when fans can just watch “Sports Center” or “NBA Game Time” for the highlights later tonight?

  10. Big Al - Jul 8, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    It wont be the “the biggest free agency signing in NBA history” if he signs with Miami at less than the max.
    His ego makes him hold “The Decision” . His wallet forces him to sign with NYK!!!!

  11. Soul Whisperer - Jul 8, 2010 at 6:45 PM

    I agree with you about trying to widen his audience. He’s also interested in expanding his market yet. It’s a financial decision as much as anything else, he’s knows such ‘secret revelation type shows’ and the build up create new buzz and attention to the world. So yes it’s a genius idea in that way.
    We offer genius ideas at so we should know, right?
    Lebron will indeed to to Florida, as foreseen by Soul Whisperer. See analysis of why, posted in her page:
    Florida, make way for the “King.”

  12. vile - Jul 8, 2010 at 9:58 PM

    this is bad for the nba!

  13. 26nation - Jul 11, 2010 at 5:54 AM

    He’s right, you know. Even those of you who disagree in this comment thread: you don’t ACTUALLY disagree. You may want to. Hell, you may actually think you do. But the real reason you would hate on this article–or even those who just passively deny that Lebron is achieving what the author of this article claims he is–are just angry because, whether buried deep in your subconcious or burning in your prefrontal cortex, coated in a steel shunt of denial, you know that Lebron has America by the balls.

  14. 12th moon - Jul 16, 2010 at 2:55 PM

    Congratulations to Prince Lebron for winning his second straight NBA MVP Award. Now he can put his focus on winning a NBA Title with Wade and Bosh.
    Follow him on his journey to winning that elusive NBA title that eludes the true Kings of the NBA…(sarcasm)
    Lebron is hard at work on his next music video and will be premiered very soon. About his gay relationship with D Wade and Bosh is the real why they have teamed up for the Miami Heat.

  15. 12th moon - Jul 16, 2010 at 2:56 PM

    Congratulations to Prince Lebron for winning his second straight NBA MVP Award. Now he can put his focus on winning a NBA Title with Wade and Bosh.
    Follow him on his journey to winning that elusive NBA title that eludes the true Kings of the NBA…(sarcasm)
    Lebron is hard at work on his next music video and will be premiered very soon. About his gay relationship with D Wade and Bosh is the real why they have teamed up for the Miami Heat.

  16. elizabeth Jones - Jul 19, 2010 at 2:12 PM

    Lebron james is a fool, i dont care what he do, besides he is a bad playerr…haha..By the way I found a website that give you prizes for your opinions and 4 play games here is the topic about Lebron:

  17. Thabrasta - Jul 19, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    Whatever decision Lebron James made about his NBA career and the way he chose to handle it people were going to still talk negative about him. I admire Lebron and always will and I am sure he does not care what you all have to say about him. Go ahead and continue what you all like doing and that is fault finding others. PEACE

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