LeBron James: A Whore For Our Times

Categories: Sports, internets
Lebron Topps.jpg
First things first: LeBron James owed the Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans nothing. Professional basketball is a business. And, in choosing to jilt the Cavs and the fans who had loved and supported him since his schoolboy days, he ostensibly made a business decision. Cold-hearted -- but that's business. The man wanted to play in Miami. Nice work if you can get it. 

What's unforgivable is that James executed this decision via a calculated Internet and mass-media buildup culminating in an hour-long, prime-time spectacular. If it shows a lack of class to beak up with someone via text message, it demonstrates something orders of magnitude less classy -- and more hurtful -- to do so on nationwide television.

When James announced a contrived TV special to announced which NBA franchise had procured his services, your humble narrator's initial reaction was that he must be returning to the Cavs. Surely he wouldn't, in essence, sell advertising time to tell his current fan base to stick it. Surely he wouldn't start pitching a website, establish a Twitter feed, and inflate his bloated brand even further just to dump that much more on the already tortured city of Cleveland. Would he?

Again, James did not have a duty to the Cleveland franchise or its fans. The Cavs have not exactly been a well-run machine over the past several seasons. James' supporting teammates were apparently recruited via Craigslist and recently departed coach Mike Brown would be challenged to fog up a mirror.

But there's a right way and a wrong way to handle a situation like this. Leak the news. Tweet it out. Hold a press conference. Thank the fans for supporting you but let it be known that you've chosen to move on. That's how you'd do it if you were, say, a human being with a conscience and the least bit of concern for the fans whose irrationally exuberant support enables your success. But if you're concerned about marketing  yourself as a commodity, you do it the way James did it. And then you inexplicably bring up God.

Front Page, Cleveland Plains Dealer.jpg
The front page of today's Cleveland Plain Dealer. The small print by the arrow pointing to James' hand reads '7 years, $62 million, no rings.'

Fine. James certainly spread his name even further, but he cheapened and dirtied it as well. Numerous basketball fans awed by his other-worldly talent will unquestionably be turned off by this sort of blatant, crass self-promotion. Before this, they could take James or leave him. But now they'll be rooting against the Miami Heat with all their hearts. But, then, if you believe there is no such thing as bad publicity, this, too, could be considered a success.

It's sad, but that's how things go in the age of Twitter. A superstar athlete who behaves like a human being -- and treats his fans like one -- is a rare thing. King James' mantra appears to be cribbed from King Louis XIV: "L'estat c'est moi." How convenient: That's far fewer than 140 characters.

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