Boasting of three NBA championships, four NBA Most-Valuable-Player awards, three NBA Finals MVP awards, two Olympic gold medals, an NBA scoring title, and the NBA Rookie of the Year award, it’s no secret that LeBron James has literally won everything there is in the biggest professional basketball league on the planet.
James is considered by many people – including his fellow players – to be the “face of the NBA”. His opinions have yielded significant influence on important league decisions; for example, in 2014 he asked commissioner Adam Silver to increase the duration of the All-Star break, and the request was granted the following season. On February 13, 2015, James was elected the first Vice President of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA).
Throughout his career, James has been ranked by Forbes as one of the world’s most-influential athletes, and in 2017, he was listed by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. And, it was no surprise to see King James feature on the second spot in the 2017 Forbes Fab 40 list.
At an estimated brand value of $33.4 million, the 32-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers star is only behind 19-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer who leads the list with $37.2 million to his name in brand value. According to the list, ‘an athlete’s brand value is their earnings (excluding salary and bonus from their sport and all investment income), minus the average income of the top 10 athletes in the same sport.’
Golfer Tiger Woods and Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli also feature at the sixth and seventh spot on the list. But, while everyone is wondering how a failed golfer still rakes in the moolah and just how big Kohli’s brand has become, it’s James who catches our attention.
He refused to shake hands with his opponents after the 2009 East Finals. He sparked an outrage amongst Cleveland fans in 2010 and has even accused US President Donald Trump of making hate “fashionable”, before calling him a “bum”. James has had his fair share of controversies, but he has still managed to maintain his brand value while his fan-following continues to go upwards.
So how does he do it? Well, here are his twin innovations: the strategic use of contract length to maximize leverage and a comprehensive media strategy that takes player content directly to an audience.
During his first stint with the Cavaliers, he was adored by local fans, with Sherwin-Williams displaying a giant Nike-produced banner of James on its world headquarters.
Despite their affection for James, Cleveland fans and critics were frequently annoyed when he attended Cleveland Indians baseball games versus the New York Yankees sporting a Yankees hat. Following his actions during the 2010 free agency period and, more specifically, The Decision, he was listed as one of the world’s most disliked athletes.
His move to Miami Heat had already irked plethora of Cavaliers fans. Many even called him a traitor for leaving Cleveland that supported and nurtured him for seven years. But then, playing for a side for as long as seven years in your prime and not winning the Championship once, surely had James worried.
However, despite all the hatred, James wasn’t the one to back down. He did all the talking on the court and channelised all his aggression to shape his career. And, in 2012, his efforts and hard work finally paid off when he literally conquered the world of basketball.
That year, James won the NBA Championship with Miami, was named the Most Valuable Player in NBA Finals, bagged NBA MVP award, got selected in NBA All-Star team and, to top it all, clinched the Olympic gold medal with Team USA in London.
By 2013, his image had mostly recovered and he was reported by ESPN as the most popular player in the NBA for the second time in his career. In 2014, he was named the most popular male athlete in America by the Harris Poll. He has also led the NBA league in jersey sales six times.
Whether it was soft-spoken Tim Duncan who transformed into a beast the moment he stepped on the court or the gregarious Shaquille O’Neal who ripped into opposition’s defence like a walk in the park, in the end, theirs have always been a quest that has fed predominantly on their on-court controlled aggression for the solemn purpose of winning titles.
Similarly, James celebrates the journey to greatness as a destination unto itself. An absolute cracker of a small forward with undying hunger to score on court, James is gleefully snarling in his over-the-top-extra workout videos. He raps in his car on the way to gym and lifts weights in the predawn gloom with his bestie Dwayne – all of which is evident on his social media accounts.
And, that’s what makes him the brand he is today. A superman on the court (marketeer’s wet dream), and a graceful human being off it (something every single fan can connect with).
Photo: © Reuters (Main Image)
Source of news : Mensxp