LeBron James’ “Rise” Commercial

This summer was easily the most tumultuous in the young life (he is six months younger than I) of LeBron James. In the eyes of many he tarnished and discarded the crown with which many had anointed him while he was still in high school. He went from the NBA’s golden child to villain with one decision. This is what LeBron James has learned to live with. Warranted or not, he is reviled and loathed because of a choice that he made.

In his new commercial with Nike, James addresses everyone concerning what has been said throughout the summer and what will likely be said about him throughout his entire career and beyond. One thing must be remembered, though: this is a Nike commercial which is intended to promote one of their signature athletes.

James asks the viewer, “what should I do?”  It is a poignant response to the flack and accusations lobbed at him. After all, in the western culture the pursuit of individuality is the ultimate goal while mob mentality is frowned upon. (In theory at least.) I think therefore I am. James has done nothing if pursue that goal to its fullest extent. James was lost but has now found himself…in Miami. Although finding one’s self can take a lifetime, James has reached a turning point in accepting who he is and reestablishing his voice. Yet, to do so with branding hurts his case. A brand is about money, not honesty or one’s true self. The self cannot be found in marketing.

Many will never forgive James for what they perceive that he did to them personally. They likely never will. James cannot win them all back, nor should he ever try. However, this commercial is his first universal response and it will not fall on deaf ears. Reactions to the commercial will vary but everyone can agree that it is a well made ad. The labels of villain and turncoat may stick for a time but for James, the ad is an attempt to becoming the NBA’s prodigal son. Whether the fans accept him again or not has yet to be seen.

The fans should be the ones asking the questions of James now. “What should we do?” and “what should we have done?” Those questions will fall on deaf ears.

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