Friday, July 9, 2010

LeBron: The Ego Has Landed in South Beach

McDonnell is Clinical Associate Professor of Sports Management at New York University. 

Finally, LeBron James has made his long awaited decision to embark upon a new life in South Beach with the likes of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and an exuberant Pat Riley. Miami will never be the same again after the triumvirate of basketball superstars take over the city in ways that Dan Marino only dreamed of. However, LeBron James’ shameless display of self promotion and self adulation has slightly tarnished his image in a league where Q Scores are just as important as points per game and assists.
ESPN’s overindulgence of LeBron James’ whims has been beyond disappointing. Besides the strategic placement of a Vitamin Water refrigerator in plain view of the television cameras, we saw LeBron James star in a McDonald’s commercial poking fun at basketball icon Larry Bird and lending his voice to another commercial promoting one of the several products that he endorses. During his prime time special, we witnessed a media behemoth genuflect to a twenty-five year old basketball player who felt it was more important to sell a brand rather than delicately handle a contentious situation. We also learned that LeBron James still has room for growth when it comes to maturity and dealing with stressful situations. The fans in the city of Cleveland deserved more than what they received last night from LeBron James. Art Modell can breathe a little easier these days knowing that he is no longer the most hated man in all of Cleveland.
SportsMoney Special: Inside The LeBronathon
Within minutes of LeBron James’ announcement, Steiner Sports posted on its web site a 20% discount on the purchase of an autographed LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers red road jersey. On the other end of the spectrum, the NBA Store’s web site didn’t waste any time and began aggressively promoting replica home and road LeBron James Heat jerseys for $44.99. Whether it was intentional or not, the jerseys on the web site had LeBron James wearing the number “6” even though that number currently belongs to guard Mario Chalmers.
By no means am I criticizing LeBron James for leaving the Cavaliers. After carefully weighing his options, James is of the belief that the Miami Heat can immediately contend for multiple championships and the current composition of their roster is far superior to almost all of the teams in the National Basketball Association. I truly admire his desire and quest for something greater than league MVP awards and scoring titles. However, I do find fault with his unabashed focus on promoting himself as an entity far greater than the game.
As LeBron James mingles with the beautiful people that populate the night clubs and restaurants along Ocean Drive, he must come to terms with the fact that he can never go home again. James has permanently fractured his relationship with a city and state that lived vicariously through his athletic exploits. He is taking a calculated risk by foregoing millions of dollars to play alongside two perennial all stars who are accustomed to being the focal point of their team’s offense. While the model has worked quite well for the Boston Celtics in recent years, Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley must devise an offensive strategy where each of their superstars can excel and flourish while peacefully coexisting.
Over the past week, we have gained a tremendous amount of insight on who LeBron James actually is and what he desires most. It is now time for us to shift our attention to other matters of importance. A decision has been made and all of us have to accept it and move on. However, our opinion of LeBron James has slightly changed and we now expect more from him than we did before.


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