Preface: I told you in the welcome post that I would work sports into this! #BlogginOut
It has been 10 months since LeBron James announced that he was taking his talents to South Beach. 10 months since he embarrassed the city of Cleveland on national TV. 10 months since “The Decision”.
And 10 months later the Miami Heat, whom many pontificated whether they could top the ’95-’96 Chicago Bulls record of 72 wins and 10 losses, sit in third place in the Eastern Conference behind the Celtics and this year’s Bulls.
Many questioned LeBron’s toughness, character, and supersized ego after “The Decision”. joining superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami was considered a cop out. ‘Destroying his legacy,’ they said. He went from most likable to most hated. A symbol of cowardice at work in today’s society.
While I agree with many of the criticisms LeBron has faced in the last 10 months, I can’t help but think that “The Decision” was a phenomenal marketing ploy. Let’s take a look back at the timeline for James:
July 4 – James reveals he will announce free agency decision on 1-hour ESPN special July 8th.
July 8 - James announces on national ESPN special entitled “The Decision” that he will sign with Miami Heat.
July 8 – Fans throughout Cleveland seen burning effigies and jerseys of James
July 8 – Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert releases statement on Cavs website admonishing James and criticizing him of being ‘narcissistic and quitting on the team during the playoffs.
July 9 – Miami Heat hold “welcome party” for James, Wade, and Bosh to celebrate their signings with the team.
October 24 – Nike releases brand new “LeBron Rise” commercial featuring James asking the question, “What Should I Do?”
October 26 – Miami Heat lose first game of season to Boston Celtics, 88-80
November 24 – Heat lose to Magic in Orlando, 104-95, for third straight loss, and seventh loss of season.
December 2 – James returns to Cleveland for first time in opponent’s uniform. Game is a sellout and security for game heightens. Heat blowout Cavs, 118-90, James is boo’d nearly every time he touches the ball, but scores 38 points without playing most of 4th quarter.
December 18 – Heat complete 12-game winning streak after defeating Washington Wizards, 95-94.
As we wind down the season now, it appears James and the Heat will finish with either the #2, or #3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
I bring up these dates in the timeline because of what surrounded each event. In the days leading up to, and on the actual dates of the aforementioned events, people were talking. They weren’t talking about the Bulls, the Celtics, the Lakers, or the Spurs (all teams with better records); they were talking about LeBron James and the Miami Heat. With one simple phrase on national television, James transformed into the most notorious figure in sports today, and put the Heat on a level of national hatred that only the New York Yankees can rival.
“The Decision” was a phenomenal marketing ploy. James has become the most talked about sports figure in recent memory, and quite possibly, as Kanye West puts it, ‘of all time’. In fact, James has pulled off what I like to call the “Kanye West Effect”: You either love him, or you love to hate him. Either way, you are talking about him.
LeBron capitalized on the modern sports media that analyzes if Brett Favre’s facial stubble results in more interceptions because of a desire to release the ball earlier so he can scratch his face sooner, and a market that eats up that news with a spoon.
Remember the round-the-clock coverage and speculation about where James would end up in the days leading up to “The Decision”. Remember the analysis afterwards? He enraged his former owner so much it caused him to write a public reprimanding of him! How about when all eyes were on Cleveland December 2nd for LeBron’s return? Even following the Heat season has been somewhat like taking a ride on the Enron rollercoaster.
Need quantitative proof? “The Decision” was the highest-rated program on cable and network TV July 8th, and drew more viewers to ESPN than the network’s interviews with Tiger Woods post-adultery scandal, AND Alex Rodriguez post-steroids scandal.
Lebron’s return to Cleveland on TNT posted an overnight 5.0 TV rating, and actually peaked at 6.7 before the Heat began to dominate.
Nike’s “LeBron Rise” commercial has garnered 5,353,830 YouTube views in only a little more than six months. Compare that to the YouTube video sensation “Charlie Bit Me” which has racked up only 1,353,904 views in two years.
ESPN has a special page entitled “Heat Index” chronicling Miami’s season on a day-to-day basis.
The bottom line is EVERYONE talks about LeBron James.
“The Decision” may have destroyed his legacy as a player, but it certainly perpetuated his brand.