Friday, July 09, 2010

LeBron's Definition of Legacy Muddles "King" Mantra

By Jared Trexler
The Phanatic Magazine

So the permanent ink LeBron James bares liking him to royalty is going to be one of those tattoos you regret years down the road -- like the lifelong symbol of love people imprint for who turn out to be future ex-mates.

If he is does not see the backwardness of the brand he's built and the decision he made Thursday night in Greenwich, CT than he is as naive as the proposition of a one-hour television special devoted to his huge ego he then deflated with the phrase heard 'round the globe:

"I'm going to South Beach."

Confused?  You should be.  James talks one way out his mouth and the other out his ass, which is a nicety for saying he is full of s#@%.

He has cultivated the brand of a superstar, a global sports icon known as "The King" through creative cutthroat marketing and the skill level to back up such a lofty image.  His six-team free agent circus was royalty on 'roids, as teams in some cases flew thousands of miles to beg an NBA player to play for a max contract in their city of residence.

The spectacle took over ESPN's airwaves, turned The Worldwide Leader into a true sideshow with its journalistic credibility held hostage, and seized social media by the throat.  If you weren't tweeting #LeBron, you were non-existent for the last month.

He spun the global interest into a 1-hour television publicity stunt and further enhanced his brand as the NBA's biggest cash cow.

He then -- approximately 27 minutes into "The Decision" -- turned around and bit off the hand that feeds him...his own.  Why cultivate an image as the man then scoot off to Miami to play with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on Wade's Wade's city.

He no longer is the king, but rather the highly-talented Jester who must defer to Wade's throne.  When asked questions about "the last shot" and "team hierarchy" he spoke in platitudes without much of an answer besides the canned response of wanting to win a title.

Truth be told, if James was so concerned about winning a title before, as many reported, "he is 31 with bad knees" then the place was Chicago, where he could have played with a 23-year-old rising star at the point, one of the league's few remaining rebounding/defensive post man in Joakim Noah and one of the game's best finishers around the rim in newly-signed Carlos Boozer.

Yes, he would have played in Michael Jordan's shadow, but James could have maintained and even increased his brand in one of the game's largest media markets and put his own stamp on a team that would have instantly become the favorite in the Eastern Conference.

True he is now playing with an NBA Finals MVP and a two-time All-Star, but the rest of the roster is bare with nary a point guard (Mario Chalmers is a better two-guard) or interior depth in sight.  And how many basketballs can one team use?  Is James willing to average 10-to-12 points less per game to keep everyone happy?  If he is, great--but that again doesn't fit with the brand he has spent the better part of seven years creating.

Reality is James left "home" and decided against Chicago because he wanted to play with his friends and because, as hard as it is to say, he had uncertainty about his ability to completely carry a team to a title.  There is no other rationale to explain the decision for a superstar in the prime of his career to pass off imprinting a building legacy in Cleveland or winning multiple titles of his own in Chicago.

MJ didn't want to play with Isiah...he wanted to beat him.  Magic didn't want to join forces with Bird...he wanted to take the title from him.  LeBron is a farce.  Not for leaving Cleveland, but deciding it was easier to ride D-Wade's coattails than shape his own franchise, his own legacy.

Doesn't sound like royalty to me.  Too bad that tattoo is permanent.

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