LeBron James Marketing: Building Paper Heroes

Lebron James Marketing


It seems like once every month I am prompted to recall great athletes and performances from the past. The other day news of what appears to be a Nike PR stunt involving NBA star LeBron James surfaced, prompting once again, what younger sports fans might term “an old school has been” response.

It is true that this writer is “old school”, and that I have little affinity for today’s “chest beating” sports heroes. However, if the reader will consider their goals and the “old school” ones to be the same, perhaps what “appears” to be excellence today, might be put into better perspective. In short, these “new age” heroes only stand to gain from a little more critical evaluation and expectations.

According to “the story”, at LeBron James’ Skills Academy, Xavier College sophomore Jordan Crawford dunked on LeBron in a pickup game. It would have been no big deal (and it really isn’t any way) if not for the “story” that Nike officials on the scene confiscated the video of the “alleged” incident.

From this point the story starts to take on something of an epic “BS” twist for every sports publication known to man, and Nike must still be wringing their greedy little hands thinking of all those $150 basketball shoes on sale now. I know this sounds more than a little cynical, but read a little further even if you are a Lebron/Kobie/Shaq/whoever fan, then you might catch a glimpse of the fact that most of these bozos are over paid.


Lebron James Marketing

After reading the first of these articles the other day, I decided to look at some video of these players to determine exactly what the big deal is supposed to be. LeBron is, of course, one of the premier players in the NBA these days, and this other player, Crawford, appears to have some skill as well. But, in light of the rather mediocre talent in the NBA these days, I naturally assumed Nike was trying to build some legend where otherwise none really exists.

Professional sports has become what NWA Wrestling was for all of us back in the late 60’s and early 70’s to be honest. I know, for the late learner out there, most of you never even saw the old school players, nor would you have any idea what the NWA (National Wrestling Federation) looked like back then. If you can believe one thing I write and nothing else, just believe that the NWA was and is a “dog and pony show”, and now, just about everything else is too.

Without going into a long piece with comparisons and statistics, let me just say that accepting these “new age” bozos as heroes is not good for you, the game, or even the “stars” themselves. We have simply come to accept what is offered to us in the way of heroes and role models, and what we get it – less. Let me show a few examples if you will.

To make the short list of “people who dunk on people”, I guess one has to be a Hall of Fame “for real” legend in my book.


Connie Hawkins

Controversial, and superbly talented Connie Hawkins, led a shortened career, and one where most people only saw him in his waning years. “The Hawk”, as he was nicknamed, swooped with power and grace unlike any other. I include this legend for two reasons. One, because everyone who is anyone in “street ball” knows who this is. Secondly, because even this legend recollected others with respect in his book entitled “Foul”.

Hawkins was a legend on the school yard, ABA and NBA. Lastly, if you are looking for legends and heroes, real ones that is, consider this. In the aforementioned book by Hawkins, many figures emerge.

One, going by the name of Herman “the helicopter” Knowings, could reportedly give change off the top of the backboard. Another, and more interesting legendary accolade was offered for none other than Chamberlain. Like many who played against him, Chamberlain carried an aura of nearly Olympic proportions for even such as Hawkins, and the 6’8″ star reflected this in his own autobiography.

The point for anyone who is a basketball fan, is not that the players of today are not talented in the extreme, but that everyone expects so little from them.

If you are going to make a legend – Nike or anyone – make sure the subject is a legend to the legends. Players like Shaq and Kobie could in fact be legendary if it were not for their publicists, Nike, or whatever PR is behind their sometimes mediocre efforts. Shaq for one looks like he needs to lay off the Burger King diet, and Kobie?

Well, he needs someone to play hard against, and a more polished demeanor. Aside all the talent issues, there is one of class too. Making big deals out of the ordinary, beating one’s won chest, and playing games with the media is not exactly what made Achilles’ name last thousands of years.

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