Before you read further, watch Nike’s latest commercial, “Rise,” featuring LeBron James.
Since most of you already know the story, I’ll make this as quick as I can. Feel free to skip through if you know the background. The last four or five months have been interesting for the King. After seven years in Cleveland and no championship rings, LeBron James decided it was time to leave.
In a prime time ESPN event called The Decision, LeBron announced to the world that he would be “taking [his] talents to South Beach” to play for the Miami Heat. Cavs fans were furious, their hometown hero (LBJ is from Akron, Ohio) was leaving them, having never delivered the championship he promised.
Basketball fans from all over were upset as well, mainly with how LeBron decided to handle the announcement. Even though the money raised during the show was then donated to the Boys & Girls Club of America, most thought it was a pretentious and selfish way to announce his decision.
Throughout the offseason, LeBron has come under a lot of fire. He’s been called out for quitting on his team in the playoffs, for leaving Cleveland, for The Decision. Dan Gilbert, the Cavs’ owner, publicized a nasty letter about LeBron.
Recently, LBJ came out and said he thought that all of the backlash from The Decision was partially a race issue, and that if he were of a different skin color, none of this would have been a big deal. Also, in the past few weeks, LeBron has retweeted several hateful and derogatory tweets, examples of messages he says he receives every day.
In the end, LeBron’s image has changed from a beloved NBA superstar, a hometown hero, and possibly the one-day greatest basketball player of all time to the biggest villain in the league (yes, above Kobe, he’s going to get booed everywhere he goes), a selfish superstar who betrayed his city for more money (smaller contract, bigger endorsements), more fame, and an easier championship ring.
The unquestionable number one thing the commercial does is address all of the events of the past four months. And it does this quite well. It references The Decision, his departure from Cleveland and the falling of the “We Are All Witnesses” banner with his image on it (gave me chills), the fact that he’s become a villain and that he surrounds himself with friends rather than mentors. He calls out Michael Jordan in the Hall of Fame scene, and Charles Barkley later on, both NBA legends who publicly called him out during the offseason.
Throughout the 92-second commercial, LeBron asks, “What should I do?” This offseason, everyone (including me) has had opinions on LeBron’s actions on and off the court, his decisions, his comments to the media, what he could have done differently, and what he should do moving forward.
LeBron seems to be saying, “You try being me.” Now, most of us (maybe all of us) would die to be LeBron James. And I’m sure LeBron James would even die to be LeBron James. But you have to consider the sheer amount of pressure the man has been under for the last ten years. He’s had a world of expectations surrounding him since he was a young teenager.
Obviously there are far worse things in life than being the most talented athlete in the world, and he hasn’t done a lot to deflect or hide from the media attention. But making a decision about where you want to play a game for the next few years, that impacts millions of people, has got to be a tough thing to go through. And it’s true, none of us knows what it’s like to be LeBron James.
There’s a contingent of people who love the advertisement but give all of the credit to Nike. Sure, Nike conceptualized it. And they did a fantastic job. The message is clear. The cinematography is tremendous. But LeBron had to ok it, film it, and own it.
The Twitter Aftermath
After the video’s release, LeBron took to Twitter. Throughout the day on Monday, he retweeted people who had positive things to say about the commercial.
Part of me would have liked to see LeBron let the video speak for itself. In a sense, retweeting these followers makes it seem like he’s trying to validate the commercial. “See? People like it! So there!” At the same time, it’s hard to get mad at an athlete for retweeting his followers, when that’s something I generally praise. Also, last week, LeBron retweeted some very hateful and nasty messages he’d received, which showed people that it’s not all roses for the King.
Through the commercial, LeBron acknowledged what was a very tumultuous offseason, the day before the regular season began. The video was published to Youtube on Monday. The NBA season started on Tuesday.
On Opening Night, LeBron’s new team, the Miami Heat, visited the defending Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics, the team that knocked James out of the playoffs last year. There were massive expectations heading into this game, some even wondering if the Heat could go undefeated.
Instead, they fell flat, losing to the Celtics by 8 points, and starting the season 0-1. LeBron had 31 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks, but he also had 8 turnovers (the most he had in any game last season). At one point in the 4th quarter, it looked like LBJ might single-handedly lead the Heat back from a double-digit deficit to win the game, but the Celtics held on. Had the Heat won the game, and had LeBron been the reason for it, “Rise” would have become that much more impactful.
Being a LeBron fan has been quite the rollercoaster. I definitely do not support the way he made his announcement to leave Cleveland for Miami. I also think he quit on the Cavs during last year’s playoffs, which is unacceptable.
Before that, I wasn’t a fan of him confiscating the video when Jordan Crawford dunked on him, and I wasn’t thrilled when he walked off the court without shaking hands after his team lost the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals to the Orlando Magic.
All that being said, I do like and respect LeBron. More than anything, I absolutely love to watch him play the game of basketball. Is he the perfect NBA superstar I always thought he would be? No. Will he be the greatest to every play the game? Maybe.
I personally think “Rise” was a good move for LeBron. Despite the commercial, most people still hate LeBron and have lost respect for him. I’ve heard people call the video cocky, and just another reason not to like the King. Maybe I’m just a fanboy, what can I say? I feel like by acknowledging all of the madness that has surrounded him over the past four months, LeBron finally made the right decision.
What are your thoughts on the video? As always, would love to continue the conversation below, so comment away!