Bank Shots: Whatever happened to “The LeBrons”?
Adidas, Nike, Reebok, and other shoe companies have long used puppets andÂ gimmicks to push sneakers. The KobeÂ puppetÂ once ran with LeBron puppetÂ until it became bad publicity. Lil’ PennyÂ was popular until he wasÂ melted down and used asÂ spare parts for an experimental knee replacement for the big Penny. And SpikeÂ Lee made a basketball movie with Jesus (otherwise known as RayÂ Allen).
But whatever happened toÂ The LeBrons? The Nike ads that depicted the various aspects of LeBron James’ personality, all vying for supremacy. Our own Timothy Varner reports in this week’s Bank Shots:
There must be a Barksdale/Bell/Stanfield conceit to tie this together. LeBron James used to run these corners. But these days he sounds more like a Rodney King re-run.
“You kind of understand sometimes what Randy Moss was talking about when he said, ‘I will not be answering anymore questions.’”
That’s not quite the victim card, but there are some clear echoes of “woe is me” running through James’ words. A year ago it was unthinkable that LeBron James would shun the spotlight. Global icon. That was the goal, right?
We all know what happened. The (Bad) Decision was the sort of public relations blunder that corny dissertations are made of. LeBron James had control of the conversation. It moved swooningly from bar stool to bar stool and typically began, “Did you see James’ stat line last night?” Â And his commercials careened between the mawkish “I’m a Witness” stuff and the cute LeBrons series. It was the sort of propaganda we could put up with, even enjoy. They followed the golden rule of television commercials: “If you lie to me, at least make me laugh.”
These days LeBron James is an apologist. His argument isn’t terribly clear.Â And while it’s fun to play the intellectual, making believe there is something profound beneath the surface of his latest propaganda blitz, I don’t see it.Â It’s just calculated distraction from the other conversation, the one LeBron can’t seem to shake.
And I hope it works.Â Business LeBron is becoming a tedious bore.
The curious thing in all this is that, at least initially, someone had the good sense to spoof the Business LeBron persona. If there was a misguided character in those early commercials, it was him. Business LeBron was cool and in-charge, but, if you remember, he was more of a talker than a baller.
So where does that leave us? Nowhere, really. I’ve just had my fill of Business LeBron talk. Athlete LeBron isn’t a propaganda piece. He’s the real thing, and infinitely more interesting to discuss. So what if LeBron isn’t as good at public relations as he is at basketball. It’s time to let it die.