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LeBron James is a Genius. Haters abound!

July 9, 2010
lebron james

lebron james

In the wake of King James’ decision to leave the big Cleve, I came across something that legitimately pissed me off. And it’s Friday. I don’t enjoy being pissed off on a Friday. The article is titled “Now Hated, LeBron James Makes Worst PR Move in History.” I rarely comment on things, but I decided to leave words for the writer of this ridiculous piece, and they are reprinted for my readers below:

“No one outside of Cleveland is mad at LeBron for leaving. He made the same move many business professionals make when offered the chance to stretch and grow in the workplace. If you had the chance to work side by side with the best business thought leaders in the world, would you? How is this different? Worst PR?? Best PR I’ve ever seen. Even my great aunt was watching ESPN last night.

He has to stay in Cleveland forever to be considered a loyal, humble man? He didn’t shoot himself in the foot, or do drugs , or sleep with strippers… he made a strategic business move that, if you recall , cost him money . If anything, children should take from this that in life, we must make hard decisions, and not always the ones that are going to make people like us.

“Now Hated, LeBron Makes Worst PR Move in History?” Really? Talk about hyperbolic. This is the kind of rhetoric that pisses me off.”

Were we rivited by the antics? Yes. Were some disappointed that he didn’t end up in their cities? Most definitely. Are Cleveland fans upset? Rightfully so. Should his jersey be burned? Absolutely not. Cleveland fans put all their championship eggs in the LeBron basket, and are now faced with the harsh reality that they might be waiting another 50 years to win a giant trophy and hold a fun parade. That stings. Houstonians, we know the pain of how elusive a championship – in ANY sport – can be. But face it Cleveland, THAT’S what you’re upset about, not the three-ring circus that has transpired in the last few days leading up to “The Decision,” as ESPN has titled it. Please weigh in. What do you think?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2010 4:58 pm

    Esther, I love you and I love your passion, but I disagree. Well, not totally. I agree that he didn’t have to stay in Cleveland. And I agree that, if given the chance, any of us would want to work with business leaders we respect. But the point of the article you commented on was on how he handled the news. He, literally, went on national television FOR AN HOUR and said, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Oh, and BTW Cleveland, I’m breaking up with you IN FRONT OF EVERYONE!”

    Do I think Dan Gilbert handled the news well? No. Do I blame him? Not one bit. Should Cleveland be upset? Absolutely! As you pointed out, they put all of their eggs in his basket. Shame on them.

    But this is a case of a seriously over-inflated ego getting ESPN to agree to have him on for an entire hour AND sell his own ads to feed that ego. I wanted him in Chicago just as much as the other Bulls’ fans, but now I’m glad he didn’t come here. It’s disgusting.

    Love YOU, though!

    • Esther Steinfeld permalink*
      July 13, 2010 10:12 am


      I agree that the whole thing was a trainwreck. An unnecessary trainwreck. Classic case of a superstar thinking he can do no wrong. ESPN has as much a role in the whole fiasco as LeBron himself; they fed into his over-inflated sense of self. The NBA let him make up his own rules. We, the people, completely bought the media hype. If he had done a better job (or ANY job) of letting the team and management know of his decision ahead of time, I think I’d feel better about it. The truth is, the fans in Cleveland had no idea what he was going to do. They were sitting in bars together, arms linked, holding their breaths like the rest of us. Then they didn’t get the answer they wanted, and took to the street to burn jerseys. I totally understand the anger and sadness at the loss of their hero, definitely not faulting anyone for that. I was merely commenting on the ridiculous headline, “LeBron’s PR Ruined Forever!! World Hates LeBron!” I don’t think that’s the case. Obviously I don’t think he’s a genius (though I don’t think that was obvious to some of the people who read this), it’s just not his career-defining moment in my book. I would love to have a client who has the kind of clout that inspires ESPN to give him an entire hour of airtime to talk about whatever he wanted. Yes, there’s been backlash, but what a dream come true for his publicist.

      Overall, my point was more about the PR he’s getting. Do I think this is going to ruin his career? Hardly, especially if he’s winning games in Miami. Ultimately, if he’s winning, this debacle will be brought up on those ESPN countdown shows, “20 Most Boneheaded Moves in Sports” from time to time, but that’s about it. On the other hand, if he loses… so help him 🙂

      Love YOU! But you know that. It’s a good thing you don’t live in Houston, I’d pretty much just follow you around all day like a PR groupie 🙂

  2. Elizabeth permalink
    July 13, 2010 11:15 am

    What you are failing to realize is that he completely tarnished the brand he had been building. And his legacy, in his own words through the years, was the desire to bring a Championship to Cleveland, to put Akron on the map, to not stop until he did it, and to not go ring chasing.

    Clearly, he changed his mind about what he wanted. But he forgot to adjust his business plan to include a revamp of the branding to reflect a change in direction. And that change had been coming a while.

    The PR was a mess. To call it genius or great PR is nonsense. Sure, he got publicity, but you are wrong to assume that it is only NEO that is upset. The more people are putting together the pieces of how this trio came together, the more people are realizing that over the last few years, and months especially, the #1 priority for Lebron was to play with the other two – where ever that might be – had Chicago had the cap space, it likely would have been there. THAT is why his brand is tarnished and his legacy in ruins… because it shows that while DURING the playoffs, he was *not* committed to the Cavs as priority. Not only is that crap sportsmanship and betrayal to the team and fans, but it is the opposite of his own words regarding his goals for the city.

    He tarnished the image he had been building. The party in Miami Friday night was more of a stain to it than the horribly executed and terribly produced special on ESPN. And his lack of understanding that his image, brand, and legacy were in part dependent on his hometown, honest fight like a champ attitude – which is not at all what he will ever be considered again without some serious damage control and maybe even some swallowing of pride by him.

    He has completely lost the fan base he once had. And he did it in a split second. To call that anything but a public relations nightmare is nonsense.

    Dowd put it great in her column, might want to check it out.

    • Esther Steinfeld permalink*
      July 14, 2010 3:40 pm

      You’ve proven my point. While I agree that he approached this with all the tact and class of a rodeo clown, to say that he’s “completely lost the fan base he once had” and that his “legacy is in ruins” is incredibly hyperbolic. I’d venture to guess that a lot of people in the country still like him. I do. I feel bad for die-hard Cleveland fans, who certainly were expecting him to stay forever, because of his deep, emotional ties to the community and because he said he would. But do I think that because he’s said over the course of his career that he’d never leave, that people will penalize him forever for leaving? Nah. They’re mad (right now) because of the WAY he announced it. This was a business decision. A smart one. And he wants to win a championship with those guys. So what? Hopefully they’ll play really well together and give me something good to watch. Your implication that “he was not committed to the Cavs” during the playoffs is ridiculous. He would have loved to win a championship in Cleveland. I read Dowd’s column. It was nothing mind-blowing, in my opinion.

      As I’ve said before, the entire nation was watching him make that announcement, and now, people who have never even so much as seen a basketball game in their own city care whether he wins or loses in Miami. It’s amazing. For his own sake, I hope he wins, or he’s going to be facing a lot of criticism on all fronts. I suspect that if he’s playing well and doing what he gets paid to do, we’ll see this situation blow over very quickly. Maybe not in Cleveland, but everywhere else, we already don’t care.

  3. July 14, 2010 12:14 pm

    There’s an Oscar Wilde quote that says “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

    I think it may be a PR nightmare from the firm’s perspective, but just the idea that all of us are talking about him and this fiasco proves that it is all about who or what we’re talking about. Isn’t that what we as PR people should do keep our client/product relevant, current, and known?

    Sometimes an unhinged, and remarkable wildfire is better than a contained and controlled campaign.

    To that end, I think he succeeded, because before this, I had never heard of him. And perhaps, so many other people hadn’t. When I speak to basketball fans, they say that the NBA is suffering from support, and fans. This fiasco is just what the doctor ordered to pull the fans back, and keep them intrigued, after all a little mystery, and gossip goes a long way.

    And even if they get one fan, old or new back, it was all worth the hype, and the wildfire campaign.

    As Esther Steinfeld said in her blog post, “Even my great aunt was watching ESPN last night.”

    I think that’s a success, and planned or not planned,whether anyone agrees with me or not, the whole nation got caught up in it, and I think that was genius.


  1. LeBron James: A PR Nightmare | The Fight Against Destructive Spin

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