Countdown to King of Content 2014: 9. LeBron James
If I tracked the King of Content title back in 2010, there would be little doubt that LeBron James would have finished in the top five, maybe even number one overall. For two weeks straight, we obsessed as a sports nation over where LeBron would end up playing, and then we obsessed for another month over what he "did" to the city of Cleveland, televising his "Decision," which was figuratively like posting a murder on YouTube and then smiling about it.
Well, it all played out again in the summer of 2014 -- LeBron opting out of his deal, taking his sweet time deciding what to do, sending out smoke signals (some telling, some truly misleading), and then ultimately destroying the basketball soul of a city.
At number nine on the King of Content countdown for 2014 is LeBron James....
Very few players hold the entire infrastructure of other teams' roster constructing capabilities in their very own hands. In fact, only one does in any sport, and that was LeBron James in the summer of 2014. After a run of four straight trips to the NBA Finals, including two titles in 2012 and 2013, James was coming off of a series where the Spurs exposed every flaw in the Miami Heat's makeup.
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The NBA Finals was a five game rout, a steamrolling in which the Spurs won their four games by an average margin of 18 points. It was the worst possible matchup for the Heat -- a team with impeccable chemistry and unselfish stars going against a team with a rundown Dwyane Wade, a jump shooting Chris Bosh, and a disproportionate reliance on James to do pretty much everything.
How much the futility of the 2014 NBA Finals affected LeBron James' decision making process to take his talents to Lake Erie we really don't (and may never) know, but what we do know is that LeBron James ended up coming full circle, going back home to Ohio to try to lead his hometown team and his first employer in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers, to an NBA Title.
The historical significance of James' returning to Ohio cannot be overstated, especially when you recall the images of Cavalier fans burning his jerseys in effigy back in 2010. But beyond the pure basketball ramifications, there were two other significant messages sent with James' Decision, Part II:
1. LeBron will always be compared to Michael Jordan, fairly or unfairly. But as it turns out, the two are wired entirely different. We now know that, in his more advanced basketball years, LeBron is a creature of familial emotion more than he is a crazed assassin like Michael Jordan. LeBron wants to win, but he also wants the feel good story of saving Ohio and being near his family. You get the sense that Michael Jordan would sign with al-qaeda if it meant winning an NBA title.
2. LeBron signing in Cleveland is yet another brick out of the wall of myth that is "NBA players must be in big markets to capitalize on marketing opportunities." In the age of the internet and satellite TV, that's just patently false. LeBron is in Ohio, Durant is in Oklahoma. How's the big market thing working out for Carmelo?
That said, the early returns in Cleveland for this second edition of LeBron have been spotty at best. LeBron is still great, but not as great. He's finding out quickly that getting guys who have already been to the postseason and had success (Wade, and to a lesser extent in 2010, Chris Bosh) to win big is much easier than getting Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to play winning basketball.
LeBron can opt out of his deal after this season. Would he do it? Well, secretly, the NBA probably hopes he does. Certainly, Team Content hopes that he does. Because one thing is for certain -- LeBron James' Decisions are good for business.
LEBRON JAMES POSTS IN 2014:
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