NBA superstar LeBron James has me standing up and applauding loudly. As you know, Thursday (tomorrow) night at 9 PM ET on ESPN and TSN in Canada, LeBron will hold the sporting world captive. That’s when he’ll announce which NBA team he’ll be playing with over the next several years. James has received massive amounts of criticism for deciding to make this declaration on national television. I think it’s the absolute perfect way for someone of his stature to put an end to the planet’s speculation.
The media world is abuzz about the size of James’ ego. Everyone is moaning and wailing about the fact that James and his entourage have the audacity to announce his signing this way. Of course he has a huge ego! He’s LeBron James! Your ego would be the size of Cleveland too. Especially if mega-rich NBA owners were preening about and fawning over you and your game. And, you know what, they should be fawning and preening over him. James has met with six teams – the Cavs, the Heat, the Bulls, the Clippers (can’t figure that one out at all), the Knicks and the Nets.
Basketball, even though it’s a team game, is the only major sport in which one player can make the difference every single game. I can’t think of the last NBA team to win a championship without a superstar on its roster. In today’s game, it just cannot be done. The demand for Ilya Kovalchuk in the NHL makes no sense at all. The demand for LeBron makes perfect sense. And, if I was in his shoes, I’d take advantage of it too.
But here’s what I love the most. James’ business manager, Maverick Carter, had this to say. “Due to the unprecedented attention and interest surrounding LeBron’s decision, we have decided to make this announcement on national television,” Carter said on lebronjames.com. “By doing so we have generated funds that will be given to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. LeBron has a longstanding commitment to giving back to the community, and has worked with the Boys and Girls Clubs in cities across the country.”
Way to go, LeBron. You’re taking the opportunity to make money here…for someone else…who could really use it. If every overpaid my-bank-account-is-so-big-my-children’s-children-will-never-be-able-to-spend-it athlete did what you are doing, the world would be a much more beautiful place.
Now, all of James’ bravado would have much more impact and credibility if he’d actually won something. In his seven years in Cleveland, James has led the perennially pathetic Cavs to five consecutive playoff appearances – and one trip to the NBA Finals. That came in 2007 when they were swept by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili and the San Antonio Spurs. Tough opponent, for sure.
James knows this is a huge step for him. The biggest since he left high school in Akron, Ohio to enter the 2003 NBA Draft. And it may very well be the biggest step of his career. Why shouldn’t we be able to watch it unfold? It’s sports marketing at its absolute finest.
Now, all we’ve got to do is hope James makes the right decision – and stays right where he is in Cleveland.