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LeBron is Missing a Massive Opportunity

Keith Allison - LeBron 02Let me start by saying that LeBron James is doing just fine for himself. LeBron can pretty much do whatever he wants (e.g. get dunked on at his own camp and confiscate the video, walk off the court without shaking hands after losing the Eastern conference finals, back out of the Slam Dunk Competition) and people will still love him. The LBJ brand is very much intact and thriving. The man has tons of endorsements. However, is “doing just fine” good enough for the most exciting and athletic player in the game right now? LeBron has never settled for “just fine,” so why start now?

That’s not to say that LeBron James owes us anything. His play on the court is an absolute spectacle. I’ve never seen anyone like him. He’s exciting, unselfish, and completely dynamic. So, whatever LBJ chooses to do is up to him. All I’m saying is, I think LeBron could take it up another notch. I can’t imagine the kind of pressure on an athlete like LeBron James is under. But he’s chosen the path of greatness, a lot is expected of great people.

Slam Dunk Contest

Did you see LeBron throwing those dunks down in the All-Star Game? Wow! As impressive as they were, all I could think about is that I wish he would have pulled them out Saturday night during the Dunk Contest.

I’m calling out LeBron. Last year, during the 2009 Slam Dunk Contest, LBJ said he was putting his name in for the 2010 competition. For nearly a year, we anticipated LeBron’s performance in this year’s contest. What would he pull out of his bag of tricks? Then, in January, LBJ announced he would not participate.

I can’t say I was surprised, but I was definitely disappointed. I don’t think anyone knows for sure why LeBron decided not to stick with the competition (complicated entry form, anybody?), nor did anyone make too much of a big deal about it. It’s possible LBJ thought he couldn’t live up to expectations, that if he entered and lost the Slam Dunk Contest, he would lose some of his aura and give the haters more fuel. I know the argument, that LeBron has far more to lose than to gain from participating in the Slam Dunk Contest, but I don’t buy it.

LBJ is the most athletic person I’ve ever seen, and the other night, during the All Star Game, he pulled out the dunks we all wish we’d seen the night before. No offense to Gerald Wallace, Shannon Brown, and even Nate Robinson, but you guys just don’t cut it. Everyone in the world wants to see a Slam Dunk Contest featuring Lebron James (and D-Wade and Dwight Howard). So, let’s see it in 2011, LBJ. No excuses.

Online Presence

LeBrown twitterThis about says it all:

LeBronJames.com is a parked GoDaddy.com site.

Twitter.com/LeBronJames is an inactive account with 7,000 followers.

While Facebook.com/LeBronJames has 1.6 million fans, the last post was nearly four months ago, and LeBron clearly doesn’t run the page. So, he has 1.6 million fans, and that’s with close to zero involvement!

In a world where athletes are getting involved with social media, producing content, and interacting with fans, some of the biggest stars (e.g. LeBron, Kobe, Tiger, Peyton) are absent. As I mentioned earlier, LeBron has no responsibility to any of us to do anything apart from what he feels like doing. But if he truly wants to become the greatest, most memorable and likable athlete ever, social media can be his friend. LeBron has 1.6 million fans on Facebook, with little involvement. Imagine where he could be were he actually interacting and producing content.

Sports’ superstars often hide behind a curtain. Tiger Woods, for example, was one of the most private athletes in our world until it was discovered he was cheating on his wife with several mistresses (so, maybe for good reason). LeBron has a chance to change that stereotype. He has the opportunity to become the most beloved athlete of all time, yet he’s passing it up.

Conclusion

The sports world has been forever changed by social media. Fifteen years ago, when Michael Jordan was dominating the basketball scene and signing endorsement deals, he was doing all he could really, for his brand. Now, we live in a world where athletes can take it to the next level, by utilizing the Internet to create their own content and Aaron Frutmanconnect with their fans. LeBron James has a chance to be the best ever on the court. He gets better every year, and pretty soon there will be no way to argue whether or not he’s the best in the game (I don’t see how you can argue it now). He’s incredibly charismatic and likable (as opposed to a certain superstar who rocks the purple and gold). But if LBJ wants to be a truly revolutionary athlete, the most beloved of all time, he needs to be doing even more.

LBJ, we need to see you in the Dunk Contest next year. And you need to start utilizing social media. There is no reason not to. With just a little extra work, you can propel your fame to heights we’ve never seen, you can truly connect with your fans, and to be perfectly honest, you can command more money. I absolutely love what you do, I’m a huge fan (borderline fanboy) but  please think about it, because you’re missing a massive opportunity.

What do you think about LeBron James? Were you disappointed that he dropped out of the Slam Dunk Contest? Would you like to see him utilizing social media? Do you think he’s doing enough?

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Image by Keith Allison

Image by Aaron Frutman

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15 Responses to LeBron is Missing a Massive Opportunity

  1. Deandra D. February 16, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    Funny that you mention Peyton on the list of absentees, I just wrote a blog about that…check it out http://sportsandalatte.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/is-this-the-real-peyton-manning-com/

    I totally agree with you calling LBJ out. I blame the fail of the dunk contest on him! Why? Because had LBJ participated, he could’ve convinced some of his cronies to do so as well, making for a more competitive and entertaining event than what we witnessed Saturday night. I think he was moreso put on the spot last year when asked- was he to say “nope” on camera and in front of thousands of fans or agree and later back out to save face?

    Maybe he didn’t want to risk injury? Couldn’t tell by the way he took flight during the all-star game though. I’d love to see the NBA get its glory back as far as All-Star weekend goes, but it’s going to take the commitment of some key players (and them losing their pride) for that to happen. This is where amazing happens right?

  2. Ryan February 16, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    I feel that Lebron has no interest to be in the dunk competition. He dominates the league and has created a new position. I still don’t have a name for it, but there’s never been a player at 6-8, 260 to have his skills, and it’ll probably be a long time before we ever see one again.

    The dunk contest isn’t as good because the top dunkers don’t participate but I can’t get upset at them if they don’t want to.

  3. Doug Montgomery (Douglife) February 16, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    Wow Sam, this brings a while new view of LBJ to me. For instance why is his web presence lacking so much? He’s young, and could benefit greatly from social media, or at least more interaction with fans.

    I actually DVR’ed the Dunk Contest for LBJ as he said he would do it this year, but was let down.

    Anderson needed that triple crown though I suppose, which I believe is the reason for “complicated applications.”

    Great post!

  4. Peter V Amador February 16, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    Lebron should be using social media. He would be able to carefully control the content which he would share. In doing so, he would be able to bypass the media’s interpretation of his message. Furthermore, we understand that Lebron is intent on becoming the first athlete to earn a billion dollars. If he was to increase his presence on social media sites, he would be able to share his sponsors message directly with his fans, much as Steve Nash has done with Vitaminwater and Nike. Fans would understand that he is being paid by these corporations, and would welcome the sponsors message as it coming directly from Lebron. Steve Nash should have a conversation with Lebron the next time he is in town. twitter.com/petervamador

  5. Sam Taggart February 16, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

    Thanks everybody, for your comments!

    Deandra, who knows exactly why LeBron didn’t compete in the dunk contest. It’s possible he was afraid of injury, you’re right, he didn’t show that fear in the ASG.

    Ryan, LeBron is such an amazing talent. Impossible to argue that. I can understand him (and other superstar dunkers) not competing, but doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. The dunk contest will continue to be mediocre without them.

    Doug, I absolutely love LBJ. I don’t mean to attack him in this article, but it’s true… He isn’t utilizing online tools that could benefit his brand incredibly.

    Peter, Tiger actually reached $1 billion earlier this year. I wrote about it on SportsNetworker. But other than that, you’re dead on. Steve Nash absolutely kills it on social media, for his own brand, and for his sponsors. I wrote an article about Nash a couple weeks ago. He and OchoCinco are the best right now at utilizing social media.

  6. Ryan Stephens February 16, 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    No. No. No and no. I feel the same way about LeBron participating in social media as I do Steve Jobs. They have more important things to worry about. Seth Godin doesn’t tweet. Why? Because he couldn’t be the best at it.

    LeBron wants to be the absolute best at everything he does. Can he do social media as good as Chad Johnson? Perhaps, but why invest the time?

    Chad Johnson has become more of a “brand” than an on the field star. Shaq probably would’ve taken social media up in his prime, but it makes more sense for him now as way to extend his brand now that he’s not the player he once was.

    LeBron? He should invest all his time into becoming a better basketball player (there’s really no ceiling), and trying to win championships.

    How many truly top tier athletes are really participating in social media? I mean, peak of their careers? And of those how many are doing it themselves and not someone doing it on behalf of them.

    I’m a huge proponent of the power of the social web and how it’s capable of enhancing someone’s brand. It’s AWESOME for guys like Kerry Rhodes and Charlie V, but I’d just soon LeBron play ball.

  7. Jonathan February 16, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    One minor point I have with Ryan: LeBron is the best in the NBA, but that’s because of sheer talent. If he were truly out to be the best, he would state his goal would be “best player ever” not “global icon.” His lack of a post-up game reveals this little chink in the argument.

  8. Lewis Howes February 16, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    This is an interesting post for me. As much as I read and promote the articles on this site, I haven’t been commenting as much as I wanted to see what the opinions of the readers are over sharing my own. But here are my thoughts:

    I have seen LeBron play in person, and yes, he is an extremely gifted athlete and basketball player. My friend in college actually played against him his senior year of the Ohio High School championship game… and beat him!

    Then another friend who went to my college beat him in a game of horse (look up the video on YouTube… pretty funny).

    LeBron has talent, and I agree to some extent with Ryan that he shouldn’t be focusing on Social Media, but I have to say I agree more with Sam that he should be using social media.

    It’s about becoming a global iconic empire. Tiger is the billion dollar athlete… and has tons of championships. If I were LeBron, I would focus on winning championships, and surpassing the billion dollar mark as well.

    Guys at LeBron’s level care most about championships… but I guarantee he wants to be a bigger brand than Tiger.

    Best way to do it.. make sure you are doing more than Tiger offline and online. I don’t think it would be too much for him to do 1 video per week in the locker room, on the court, in his Hummer, or on the road, just sharing his thoughts about basketball and the season.

    He could have someone film it, post to his facebook fan page, and start posting it to Twitter. And if he felt like it he could respond to a few people every now and then… and just ease into social media.

    If he did this his 1.6 million fans would turn into 5-10 million very quickly… he could leverage this with sponsors, and get more press out of it as well.

    There are more long term benefits to this as well, but I think it would only help his brand in the long term.

    Thoughts?

  9. Ryan Stephens February 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    @Jonathan – He just turned 25 years old. Not only does he not have a post up game yet, but his 20 footer could be more reliable as well. He’s got plenty of time to develop both. The way LeBron galvanizes teammates and entrances fans is virtually unparalleled.

    I just think if you’re in LeBron’s position social media is completely inconsequential. It doesn’t fulfill a need. Maybe he gets 5-10 million Twitter fans… what difference does it make? What if some of those fans start whining about LeBron not replying to their @replies? What if he doesn’t come off as charismatic on his UStream? What then?

    He already is a global iconic empire. Does he need more press? Does he need more sponsorships? $1 Billion dollars. He doesn’t need money. He needs rings.

    We get so immersed in this space that we start thinking it’s the solution to everything. Social media should be ONE tool in a much larger toolbox. And it’s not for everyone. There’s TONS of successful business people out there who don’t have a Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog, et al…

  10. Sam Taggart February 17, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    Ryan, I completely see where you’re coming from and I respect your argument. Obviously social media is not the one solution to everybody’s problems. And basketball is, without even a fraction of a doubt, LeBron’s #1, #2, and #3 concerns. Like I stressed over and over in the article, LeBron is doing a really good job for himself without social media.

    My point is that, we are reaching an age where the worlds of sports and social media have intersected and I don’t think they will ever diverge. Sure, athletes will stop using Twitter and Facebook, but they will move on to the next thing. The tools are irrelevant. It’s the fact that athletes and fans now have the ability to connect with each other, without the filter of the mainstream media.

    Again, it is NOT about the Twitter followers or the Facebook fans, it’s about his opportunity to become an athlete like we’ve never seen before. I completely understand that LeBron’s focus is on rings. But with just a little effort on the social media side of things, he could reach levels of popularity, fame, and devotion I can’t imagine.

  11. Sam Taggart February 17, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    Lewis, I think we’re on the same page. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. LeBron doesn’t owe us ANYTHING. Not one thing. But he does have the ability to connect with fans, and he could do it without a lot of effort.

    I honestly don’t care if he’s on Ustream or Twitter or Facebook. The platform doesn’t matter. It’s all about engaging with his fans.

    In the end, I’m not going to fault him for not being on social media, and I hope it doesn’t come across as me attacking him in this article. He’s got bigger fish to fry, I understand. We’ll see. The things he could accomplish with just a little effort towards social media…

  12. Sam Taggart February 17, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    Ryan & Lewis, I’d love to have a deeper conversation around LeBron & social media. I think there’s validity to both sides of the argument…

  13. cheis April 5, 2010 at 3:33 am #

    Hey Dummy Are you stupid he isn't going to dunk with a bunch of nobodys if your the best dunker would you face a 5'8 nate robinson no

  14. Zigman May 18, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    Lebron James is the MVP for the Regular Season but Kobe Bryant is No. 1 and the Best Player in the NBA. James can't finished, he's the King Choker. There's no comparison between the two, James is still in High School, Kobe is taking his Master Degree.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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