LeBron Ditches Bad PR Image? King James Repairs His Reputation, Starting with the NBA Title
Does LeBron James need a public reputation cost-benefit analysis? Do his haters?
Two years ago, James made a very public display about “The Decision.” On a nationally televised broadcast, he announced that he was “taking his talents to South Beach,” (here’s a clip) meaning he would choose the Miami Heat over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Heat fans were ecstatic. Cleveland seethed. Basketball fans everywhere – even those with no tie to either team – had an opinion. Few held James in high esteem. Still, some thought James’ reputation would be repaired if or when he won a NBA title.
This week, the Miami Heat won the title.
And some people still hold a negative impression of James. Read CNBC’s take here.
In retrospect, James should have avoided the cameras and simply made an announcement about his move. That said, the money ESPN paid him was given to charity.
Who could have blamed him for his decision? He was a free agent. It’s the NBA. In team sports, players play to win. Name one who wouldn’t join a team with a trajectory for a league championship.
Can anyone really blame him?
Besides, maybe James’ tarnished image deserves a little slack compared to that of others accused of more serious crimes or misdeeds. Kobe Bryant stood trial for rape. Latrell Sprewell strangle his coach. Tiger Woods? Let’s not go there. Even Richard Nixon – who resigned before he could be impeached – was lauded as an “elder statesman” when he died three decades after Watergate.
And in each case, with a few trophies or the benefit of time all is forgiven.
James sinned against no one. He backtracked on no promises. He made a business decision to move to one employer with brighter prospects – and left another behind. People may not appreciate his move. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a great player, a hard worker and the team leader. He showed grit playing through pain and carrying his team to a Game Four win. His leadership delivered the hardware.
And he was named the Finals MVP.
Miami is not unaccustomed to losing a great player who also was closely aligned with the community. In 2010, Jason Taylor headed off to Miami Dolphins’ arch-rival New York Jets. Still, that followed his effort to remain with the Miami Dolphins. Once gone, he didn’t sever his Miami ties.
Most important, he went to a team where he thought he had a better chance of winning (see comment about how players “play to win” above).
Should LeBron have handled this differently? Should he have tried to massage the move, discuss with community leaders, explain his situation? Maybe.
He was no different in Cleveland – a great ball player and a solid, charitable citizen. But now, he’s in Miami.
So today, Heat fans are ecstatic. Cavalier fans remain angry. They may never get over it. And he just may never be able to resolve that.