I know none of us want to give any more ink to LeBron James, but I have something to say about the PR nightmare he created for himself.

Look, I wanted him to come to Chicago just as much as the next guy (but maybe not as much as Philip Nowak). I wanted him to take the challenge the Bulls created, with help from Leo Burnett, to fill Michael Jordan’s shoes. Heck,  I would have even been happy had he filled them AND won more championships in a Bulls jersey. But now, like most NBA fans, I don’t care who he is, what he does, and I hope the Miami Heat never win a championship with him there (however unrealistic).

Mr. D is a huge Bill Simmons fan and is always relating his blog posts to me. Early in our marriage, I politely listened. Then I realized this Bill Simmons is a genius. And he called LeBron going to Miami as soon as we learned Wade and Bosh were going to play there. His reasoning was the three of them made a pact, when they played together on the Olympics team, that they would play on the same team someday.

Which is why this whole media circus LeBron created kills me. What is the point of a more than week-long media circus, ending with The Decision with a full hour on ESPN? It’s not only ego-filled, narcissistic, and over-the-top, it’s a horrible PR move. The media did not create this circus; he did. He made the decision BEFORE the hype. I don’t even know that I want to give him credit for listening to what the other teams were offering – what a colossal waste of time and money.

I would have had a ton more respect for him, and looked at it like a smart business decision (as Esther Steinfeld points out in her blog post – LeBron James is a Genius), if he’d come out and said, “I made a pact with these guys two years ago. Just like they’ve done in Boston with the Big Three, we want to play together. I’m going to Miami to see what we can do.”

Can you imagine how differently people would have reacted to that vs. the way it played out?

LeBron didn’t go to college so he wasn’t recruited like most athletes. Good for him for being a free agent and having nearly every big market team after him. We’d all love that, no matter what our profession. But, with his inexperience, immaturity, and ego, he created a PR nightmare for his credibility, his image, and his new team and teammates. He is likely the most hated athlete in our country and his new team now gets to deal with that baggage everywhere they go.

Do I think it was time for LeBron to leave Cleveland? Probably. Do I think the way Dan Gilbert handled the news appropriate? No (another blog post for another time). Do I think LeBron could have let Cleveland, and other NBA fans, down easy? For sure. Do I think LeBron just single-handedly ruined his image? Abso-freaking-lutely!


Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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