Bank Shots: Whatever happened to “The LeBrons”?

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Cartoon by Jesse Blanchard

Adidas, Nike, Reebok, and other shoe companies have long used puppets and gimmicks to push sneakers. The Kobe puppet once ran with LeBron puppet until it became bad publicity. Lil’ Penny was popular until he was melted down and used as spare parts for an experimental knee replacement for the big Penny. And Spike Lee made a basketball movie with Jesus (otherwise known as Ray Allen).

But whatever happened to 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?”  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.  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.  It’s just calculated distraction from the other conversation, the one LeBron can’t seem to shake.

And I hope it works.  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.

  • Colin

    How about we don’t talk about Lebron until his team actually achieves something worthy of his hype in the playoffs.

    btw: It is my belief that he is the most gifted player in the NBA right now. He just doesn’t make his teammates better a la Magic Johnson and that is why they can’t win an important playoff series or finals. Prove me wrong.

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  • Colin

    …..a PR wizard he is not…….hence, “The Decision.”

  • ITGuy

    “It’s time to let it die.”
    No comment then.

  • DieHardSpur

    Hey Jesse –

    I appreciate what you are trying to do with keeping something fresh in 48MOH for the readers, but lets leave the LeBron frenzy to itself. The one and only time he did do something special, our spurs waxed him… so until he makes some noise when it counts…

  • Tyler

    This was posted over at Ball Don’t Lie.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/Video-Jeopardy-contestants-can-t-identify-Tim-?urn=nba-285617

    Carmelo Anthony?!? At least the girl names a Spur I guess…..

  • Greyberger

    Who IS Carmelo Anthony, though?

  • td4life

    If Wade had joined Lebron in Cleveland, it would be clearer that neither Wade nor Lebron, nor their skill sets, nor talents, nor their psychologies, are the real obstacle facing their organization… the lack of bussiness-mindedness was problematic… so the real error goes to Pat Riley, though his error is understandable for the situation. And his error is relative to the goal, as a bussiness right now, the Miami Heat are in pretty good shape.

    But, yes, as a GM, Lebron is not too savvy. As PR manager, pretty lousy. No doubt about it, he’s not the best bussiness man.

  • junierizzle

    I liked “The LEbrons” commercials. And take it easy on Jesse. He said BANK SHOTS would be about whatever was going on in the NBA. It doesn’t have to be SPURS related.

    @Colin
    I’m not defending LeBron, I’m just a hoops fan in general. And your wrong when you say he doesn’t make his team mates better. He took a bunch of nobodys to the FINALS. You can’t blame him for not winning that one. He only had to go up against TD, MANU and TP. The SPurs were just better. It wasn’t that LeBron didn’t make his teammates better.

  • ThatBigGuy

    @ junierizzle

    What you say is true, but history will remember that LeBron’s only trip (so far) to the Finals was a sweep. The sad thing is that no non-Spurs fan will remember who swept the Cavs.

  • andy

    actually, i’m ok with only spurs fans remembering we swept lebron’s cavs. how many people remember the last sweep before that?

    as for the post, i think it’s genius and love it, especially the graphic. i admit to being in awe of lebron’s game, and while i hated the shenanigans and media frenzy, he had some fun moments to festoon his play. after the implosion, it’s all business, there’s no levity, and least of all joy with playing. at first, i was among those itching to see them lose, but now i just think it’s sad. i know it’s not standard dogma, but i’m not for the evisceration of foes, or gloating at a man’s reckoned hubris. i’m believe in beautiful basketball, and for all his flaws, lebron can flat-out play.

    don’t get me wrong, i think the way he treated cleveland was pretty low, and his teaming up with wade and bosh belies a lack of confidence or competitive fire (i don’t buy the “wants to play with friends” argument for one second; what, so mo williams, boobie, and varajao aren’t his friends anymore?).

    like jesse, i hope he talks less and plays more, so we can talk about him for what he does on the court and not what he did off it.

  • Robert

    Interesting piece. I understand not saving it for March, when the Spurs finally face the Heat, it might look dated then so I understand publishing it now.

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Lenneezz

    The hype is over. LeFraud has been exposed. If he wants the accolades now, he has to prove it on the court.

    It’s not scoring 30 that will make him great in my mind (or countless others). When he plays with heart, creativity, selflessness, and fire in the clutch, he’ll get the attention he so desperately wants.

    Note: Shooting an airball and hitting the side of the backboard in a highly contested game is not conducive to being considered great.

  • SAJKinBigD

    Love the pics. Loved those commercials.
    Beyond irritated with the hype. I long to watch Riley step in (again) to try and lead the Heat to the Promised land and have them stub their toes in the first round. PLEASE?

    @ Tyler: At least BDL gives Timmy props! We know what we know about our guys, damn the world for it’s ignorance of our Fundamental and quality ball.

  • SAJKinBigD

    More than The LeBrons though, I miss Li’l Penny and Grandmama Johnson WAAAAAY more!

  • Tyler

    @ andy

    Agreed. I don’t take pleasure out of watching Lebron (or anyone else for that matter) struggle and I certainly don’t wish ill on the guy.

    And even though I absolutely hated “The Decision,” I’m still in awe of what he does on the court. For my money, he’s probably the most physically talented guy to ever touch a basketball.

    I really hope they figure it out and get it together in Miami. In the chance the Spurs make it to another Finals, I would love to be able to tell my grandkids years from now that my Spurs beat one of the all-time greats.

  • ITGuy

    For my money, he’s probably the most physically talented guy without a ring to ever touch a basketball

  • Jim Henderson

    Talent isn’t everything. It’s not even what puts one over the top as a “complete” basketball player, and as a team. It’s important, but overrated, just like LeBron, if what one cares about is “leading” a team to a title. In the final analysis, personal attributes and leadership are underrated in star players because it is those very qualities that put “talented” teams over the top.

  • Colin

    Junierizzle

    Lebron has had one season where he took a bunch of “nobodies” to the finals…..in a very weak east division…and got swept by a superior team. I’ll give him that one appearance. Ok, what did he do to build on that? Nothing yet really….he has had better players on that squad the past 3 yrs but couldn’t get them to step up their play beyond that level. For the physical gifts he possesses, which are the best in the league, it is my opinion that he should be getting more out of his teammates.

    “And your wrong when you say he doesn’t make his team mates better”

    ……uhh, no I’m not. At least not yet. If he did, they would have made the finals the past 2 seasons. Someone from the east had to play the western finalist that year (’07).

    If that is your case, Jason Kidd is much better at getting to the finals and losing.

  • Rey

    Hey, while there’s no “I” in “Team,” “Icon” starts with an “I.”

    That’s where we find LeBron.

  • Cam

    What do you want Jesse to do?

    Do you want him to make you happy?
    Do you want him to write about stories that interest only you?
    Do you want him to draw cartoons of Tim Duncan?
    Do you want him to write about Manu’s kids?
    Do you want him to talk about Splitters frosted tips?
    Do you want him to report on Anderson’s foot?
    Do you want him to write about Chris Quinn?

    Do you want him to quit?

  • Colin

    Cam

    I’d rather talk about all that you mentioned instead of the inflationary status of the man they call Lebron James.