I can't help but look at the timing of these recent stories that have surfaced this week surrounding LeBron James and his "camp" and think that this is only the tip of the iceberg. I say timing because I can't help but watch these guys fall on their face and wonder if stories like these are surfacing now because the real people who actually did the heavy lifting in the cultivation of this "chosen one/king james/next Mike" image are no longer involved in the process. The Cavaliers organization and the Cleveland media are no longer there to protect and shelter the public portrayal of LeBron James. That job rests squarely and completely now on the shoulders of Maverick Carter, who is doing the best job he can. Which is an awful one, and his only client on the planet is being himself publicly hurting matters.
I'm not even talking about the debacle that was 'the decision' or the three hour 'clowning LeBronfest' that was the ESPY's either. I'm talking about this week. You know, the week it seemed things could only get better for the image of this guy who went overnight from the king, to the prince of Wade County. Only things didn't get better this week in the image department, actually they got much worse. And while I never sat next to Darren Rovell in marketing class, I gotta think this isn't the way you go about creating the brand of a global icon...all do respect to the marketing genius of Maverick Carter and company.Anyways, this first example almost isn't really their fault - aside from the fact that they turned they're back on their hometown. But this billboard is now up two miles from LeBron's house:
Regardless of who's fault this is though, billboard's like this in a city that you grew up in - of which you claim to be the king of on your ridiculous twitter page - that you can actually see from your current house, are not a good look. In fact, it's gotta be a little embarrassing.
What's also not good is the appearance - true or not - that this king of Akron is also not safe now pedalling 8-miles in his own charity event through his hometown. He's currently scheduled for the one mile ride, but the 8-mile ride James has always took part in during years past has been scratched.
The city leaders are referencing a lack of interest that doesn't justify the security detail as the reason, while LeBron's spokesman is saying it is in response to budget cuts:
"The eight-mile trek for adults and kids that normally follows the short ride has been canceled. With overall interest in the King for Kids Bikeathon down from past years, city leaders said Tuesday they couldn't justify the $25,000 spent in previous years for police officers and firefighters to staff the event."
As far as security concerns, there was this line as well, from "James' spokesman":
"Keith Estabrook, James' spokesman, said scaling back the event was in response to the city's budget problems and was unrelated to James' recent decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and sign with the Miami Heat. He also said there were no concerns about James' safety."
I'm not trying to get on a guy for doing some charity work, but I kinda think he'd be better served just buying a thousand bikes and having one of his handlers pass them out door-to-door. The annual photo opp that Mav Carter and the fellas are going for just won't look the same as it did in years past.
What clearly isn't safe though is wearing LeBron James gear in Cleveland. I know it's Cleveland, and those Tribe fans were probably wrong for reacting the way they did, just as the attention starved clown was definitely wrong for instigating the whole thing. I get that, and I also get that LeBron and company didn't have anything to do with this specifically, but it still hurts the image of a guy who is in the business of selling LeBron James gear. Because regardless of where it happened, this is how the story read nationally:
'A guy in LeBron James gear at an Indians game had to be escorted away by security to prevent hundreds of raging fans from pummelling him for wearing LeBron James gear.'
And LeBron's not concerned about an 8-mile bike ride?
Through a city he just gave the finger to by the way.
Well he actually gave the finger to an Akron DJ who made the mistake of telling LeBron that Akron still loved him.
Hey Nike, I like that shirt, where can I buy one for my nephew?
From DJ Fig:
"I said 'Hey, Akron still loves you man,' and he gave the bird as you see in the picture," said DJ Fig
All this without even getting to the ESPN piece by Arash Markazi that was subsequently pulled, but not before it was then subsequently republished all over the internet and talked about even more because it was subsequently pulled. Just like that Jordan Crawford dunked on LeBron - kinda - video which was pulled as well last summer because it was embarrassing to LeBron, or some garbage like that.
While he probably shouldn't have been embarrassed by the Crawford thing, he definitely should be embarrassed by the unbiased account from Markazi - my new favorite ESPNer - who published the following before he was ordered to take it down.
(excerpts via WFNY who has more but these are my top-three):
First, Mav Carter as Puffy:
"Carter, LeBron’s childhood friend and manager, begins dancing around James like Puff Daddy in a Notorious B.I.G video. A giant red crown-shaped cake is brought over to James while go-go dancers dressed in skimpy red and black outfits raise four lettered placards that spell out, “KING.” Carter grabs a bottle of Grey Goose and pours a quarter of it on the floor and raises it up before passing it off."
James' vodka server preference:
"James, who can hardly see the flying figure through his tinted glasses, almost gets kicked in the head on the waiter’s last trip down. He looks at the girls around him and says, “I wish they’d have one of these girls with no panties do that instead of the guy.”
Even Big Baby thinks you're wack:
"Toward the end of the night, Boston Celtics forward Glen Davis walks past James’ party and looks at the scene up and down several times like a painting in a museum, soaking in the images of the go-go dancers, the “King” sign and the costumed man delivering bottles of champagne. Davis shakes his head and walks on."
This is leaving out the part where Markazi called James a child in a 6'8" frame. It is also leaving out the part where Markazi said that this particular Vegas party was Maverick Carter's idea - just as Carter was also the "brainchild" of the decision show on ESPN.
Obviously you can see why LeBron's camp would want this down - in theory - but I can't help but also see how Dan Gilbert, the Cavaliers, and the Cleveland media in general would never have let this stuff go up in the first place. Maybe this stuff went on before, and maybe everyone was just protecting their investment by covering these things up. Or maybe these things didn't go on before, in part, because there were people here helping these overwhelmed kids along the way. Who knows the real answer there, but whatever the case, LeBron James and company are on their own now, and they're taking the LeBron James brand down as quickly as they fled to South Beach.