It's Business Time – The Lebron James Brand

lebron-fortune-cover

For those who haven’t watched at the clip bottom of this post,  it’s an interesting piece on Lebron James. The 60 minutes interview was hyped beyond belief, as though some mind melting secret would be revealed, but essentially it tells us nothing we didn’t already know.

1. Lebron James is very good at basketball.

2. Lebron James is very rich.

3. Lebron James wants to be very, very rich.

In many ways James speaks with more passion for his growing business empire than anything else. He may have inherited this drive from Michael Jordan, who was essentially the first model of CEO athlete. But where Jordan was clearly motivated in the business world, it still looked like he had to earn everything he did on the court. James, on the other hand, seems almost resigned to the fact he will succeed in basketball.  No wonder he has turned his attention to the more challenging aspects of the business world. This isn’t a judgement of James, just an observation that we may have finally met an athlete who transcends competitiveness on the court merely because he is too good.

 His success this year, which has undoubtedly been the result of a harder work ethic (most suggest Kobe turned James on to what real hard work looks like at the Olympics) , seems to me extraordinarly business like. There’s no real fear or desperation here, just an understanding that winning a championship makes good business sense. Of course, give him a few more years without a championship and may be crying to John Thompson, whispering “I’m losing, I’m losing”. But who’s kidding? Cleveland will win it all this year and James can build on the brand. 

 Is this good for the NBA? Sports generally are more compelling with a hegemonic figure at the top – Tiger Woods has made golf interesting. But let’s hope Dwanye Wade can provide a worthy adversary. Otherwise , like Tiger Woods, we’ll have to be content with James competing against history, seeing how many records of the past he can break. I’m not sure he has that drive , if it doesn’t make for a good business model.

Keep an eye out for the half court shot:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh6vfS1L0e4%5D
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2 Comments

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2 responses to “It's Business Time – The Lebron James Brand

  1. hmm…i’ve just been reading about MJ, LeBron, kobe and wade in the latest SG mailbag:

    Q: Should Kobe win the MVP for spending the summer turning Lebron into the best player in the NBA?
    — Michael, Inglewood, Calif.

    SG: Definitely add it to his résumé. The biggest moment of the 2008-09 season happened three months before the season: The time LeBron overheard Kobe saying something to the effect of, “I can’t, I’m working out tomorrow at 6 a.m.,” followed by LeBron going, “Hmmmmmm … if he’s working that hard all the time, maybe I should start working that hard?” And the rest was history. A reader sent me this fascinating Chamberlain-Russell interview recently and Russell makes an awesome point: You can’t discount the luxury of having a rival continually driving you to get better and better.

    Take Michael Jordan, the greatest player of all time. Jordan didn’t retire from the NBA in 1993 because he was burned out; it happened because he had spent three solid years eviscerating everyone in his path (not just those three straight titles, but when he emerged as the undisputed alpha dog on the Dream Team), came up for air, looked around, couldn’t find an intriguing challenge that he hadn’t already conquered and decided, “Screw it, I want to play baseball.” If you took the 2001 Lakers (Shaqobe at its apex, and, yes, I just lumped them together like Bennifer or Brangelina), put them in a time machine and sent them back eight years to the summer of ’93, does Jordan leave the NBA to play baseball? No way! He would have looked like a coward. If anything, he would have worked twice as hard that summer just to beat those guys. They would have pushed him to an even higher level. And he was already the greatest.

    But that’s what happened with Kobe, LeBron and Wade — starting with the 2008 Olympics, as soon as it became patently clear they were the three best basketball players alive in some order, it’s been ON ever since. Did you see how LeBron responded to Wade’s post-All Star Break scoring explosion? You don’t think Bron watches “SportsCenter” and files away those, “Just wait until what I do tomorrow” vows every time one of the anchors is raving about Wade’s latest 40-10 performance? You don’t think Kobe circled “MIAMI” and “CLEVELAND” on his 2008-09 calendar? Kobe’s work ethic last summer, by all accounts, pushed his peers to a higher place. And since it has created the best 1-2-3 MVP race in 16 years — since the remarkable Jordan-Barkley-Hakeem season in 1993 — I say that, yes, he should get credit for this.

    (FYI: The last two paragraphs hinged on the premise that Jordan was NOT secretly suspended for 18 months for gambling, and that his baseball “sabbatical” WAS legitimate. Personally, I have switched my opinion on this subject more times than anything other than “Does Selma Hayek have implants?” “Does Steve Martin wear a toupee?” “Did I like the ending of Cast Away?” and “Was the 1985 NBA draft lottery fixed?” So I am a bad person to ask. Hold on, we’re not done with Jordan.)

  2. Yeah, Simmons is definiteley on-point again. In my opinion the best basketball writer out there. He’s been talking about the Olympics pushing Lebron to another level for a while now- especially Kobe’s work ethic. But I don’t think that Lebron views Wade as a worthy adversary, it just seems he’s too aware of his natural gifts.

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