LeBron James is one of the most gifted athletes in sports today. Too bad he’s listening to the wrong people for career advice and public image management. Leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers—his first-and-only employer—is not unprecedented, especially in sports. And I would hazard to guess many of his fans in Ohio would understand and respect his decision. Of course, that was up until he turned it into a self absorbed media circus known as The Decision.
Fans and observers rightly saw right through the charade and viewed this as nothing more than a mean-spirited, drawn out Look At Me fest of ego. Even the most casual of sports fan regarded this as a pointless exercise by a preening megalomaniac starved for a spotlight.
The LeBron James inner circle erred in conflating a media event as a public relations strategy. What possible good could come of this infomercial? They screwed up in believing this was more about LeBron James and not about the fans. If you forget the importance of speaking to and understanding your audiences, you suffer the consequences.
Will there be longterm PR damage to LeBron James? Depends on how you look at it. Had he announced his intentions differently, he could’ve avoided looking like a selfish ball hog. Remember, two years ago he seemed more preoccupied with advertising his free agency than winning a championship. And nothing irks fans more than the superstar phoning it in.
LeBron got all he wanted out of his free agency and no one can begrudge a man for increasing his salary. But he didn’t have to burn down Cleveland in the process. A little PR goes a long way, LeBron.