How can the global icon rebound?
As my co-worker and creative savant Nick Pipitone wrote earlier, LeBron James’ brand was damaged – badly – by his over-hyped move to South Beach. But within the hurricane (okay, poor Miami reference) lies an opportunity for both LeBron and the NBA to come out ahead here. And here’s the key: think professional wrestling. But first a little background.
In order for a hero to emerge there must be the villain. While most basketball fans probably like, or at least respect, Dirk Nowitzki, would he have reached the level of admiration and stardom he has shot to (that pun was unintentional) by playing against “The King”? There are always those who will root for each side, but generally the odds are in the favor of the hero. Because of the villian, the hero rises to new heights and unifies the masses behind him/her.
Professional wrestlers are masters of tugging at the heart strings of adoring fans, and even more so by pushing the buttons of detractors. LeBron and the NBA need to go back and recall when Hulk Hogan turned heel and became a member of NWO. In that one moment Hulk Hogan went from a great American hero to the most hated man in the sports entertainment industry. This is the opportunity in front of LeBron if he can live with being the bad guy for a few years.
As Nick wrote, LeBron was the ultimate good guy – Ohio kid drafted by Ohio team to save the franchise – so who better to become the ultimate bad guy. LeBron will still draw just as many people to his games, only in this case it will be to curse his name. It can lead to a whole new catalog of LeBron-hater clothing/signs/bumper stickers.
And just when everyone has come to accept that he’s a bad person who probably hates his mother – BOOM! LeBron does something amazing to win back the hearts of those who hate him. If I knew what that “something” was, other than going back to play for Cleveland again, I sure wouldn’t be writing this post. I’d be talking with David Stern about how to make this happen.
While LeBron is currently the guy that everyone loves to hate, there’s one thing that people love more than hating the bad guy. The comeback. The return to glory. The opportunity is there LeBron. Play your cards right and you might just become the global icon people want to cheer, not jeer.