LeBron: The Decision….A Master Class in Self Promotion

July 08, 2010 | Tom Clayton

LeBronapalooza is heading towards its crescendo and it seems the tide has turned on the public’s opinion on “The King”. With his variety show debuting tonight it seems people have begun to view LeBron as an egomaniacal, self-indulgent brat and while that may or may not be true you have to give LeBron props in one area: self promotion.

LeBron’s special tonight may be over the top but give James credit; he has made his free agent signing an event. Think about it, when has a singular athlete ever used free agency to advance his brand recognition like LeBron has over the past couple of weeks? And yes I use the term brand when referring to LeBron because that is precisely what he is. He has built a business empire that employees hundreds of employees and generates more profit than a third world country with his skills on the basketball court.

I believe a major factor that has led to the decision of tonight’s proceeding other than LeBron’s enormous ego is that LeBron never went to college. He never had the excitement of having schools, championship coaches, and entire cities foam at the mouth for a chance to see him play for their team. On top of that LeBron never had the signing day special where he sat in front of the Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, and Maryland (just a joke, LeBron would be a one and done and Gary would have never recruited him) hats and then chose one on National television.

Tonight is going to be a spectacle but it will be world wide news; every news outlet will broadcast clips from the special and announce his decision from Cleveland to Beijing. Any broadcasting company would have been falling over itself to televise tonight’s event.

Has ESPN “jumped the shark”? Absolutely, but they are the first name any sports fan thinks of when they want national sports news. ESPN had no choice but to produce this circus because if they had passed LeBron and Company would have gone on to the next channel and ESPN would have lost out on programming that will triple the ratings for whatever program they had planned for that time slot.

I think the really sad part is that if the reports are correct and LeBron decides to create a “super team” he will become the Darth Vader of Cleveland; the city’s ultimate villain. If LeBron leaves Cleveland he takes with it the hopes of a city and will give a substantial economic hit to a city in financial disarray. I think LeBron’s situation in Cleveland could mirror a man that many Baltimoreans love, Art Modell. LeBron will no longer be welcome in Cleveland a city he was born, raised, and developed in. I truly believe that if LeBron shuns Cleveland tonight the city could break into hysterics that include looting and fighting as well as the vandalism of the homes of LeBron and his family; basically what could be considered a riot. I hope that he has already removed his personal property and family from Cleveland if he decides to make the jump to Miami because they will all be fair game for out of control, angry Cavs fans.

Overall LeBron has taken the target off his back and covered himself in it because every fan, player, and media member that is part of the NBA is going to want to shoot down the man who thought he was bigger than the game. It may not be kosher, but it is the way of the sports world, the bigger you become the more people are standing in the bushes waiting to shoot you down, ask Tiger Woods.

I personally believe that LeBron has gone about free agency in a new and interesting way but a way that has turned of many old school fans. Say what you want but LeBron has mastered the art of self promotion and that is something that any entrepreneur must stand up and applaud. The more frightening thought is that The Decision is so cutting edge that this isn’t going to be a one time thing but something that may become more common with superstar free agents from here on out. Next Week: Favre: The Choice; Sponsored by Wrangler and John Deere.