Not too long ago, LeBron James and the Nike advertising machine rolled out the commercial “Rise” for the release of the Air Zoom LeBron 8. That commercial has now become infamous and you have no doubt seen it. I wrote two articles about “Rise” as a way to respond to it on different levels and just to get any and all reaction out of my body after the events of the summer.
“Rise” garnered all sorts of attention when it was released. The city of Cleveland even made a scathing, if not pathetic and feeble, retort to this commercial. The citizens of Miami certainly loved the commercial. Just not enough to actually go to the games.
Since James is a Nike contract player, the following ad, which appears to be a direct response to “Rise,” is all the more intriguing. Jordan Brand, a subsidiary of Nike, has released a commercial a few years ago featuring its namesake athlete in a spot that is very reminiscent of “Rise.” The commercial is titled “Maybe.”
It is interesting that Nike would have two ads which are so similar to each other especially when one takes a completely contradictory tone of the other. Maybe Michael Jordan is cocky and arrogant. Having watched his Hall of Fame induction speech it is easy to conclude that he is far from humble. Yet, this commercial resonates more today than it did when it was released. It, like Jordan himself, has a timeless nature about it. It speaks volumes about character, which some accuse James of having little of. What it really speaks of is motivation to better one’s self.
The past few days have seen James introduce his own logo under the Nike flag in a further attempt to become a brand. What does his brand stand for though? His career has no underlying definition. He is simply a good player (one of the best in the league no less), but not the greatest player to walk the Earth. His brand stands for consumerism, as most do, but it is different. It is more hollow than most.
Jordan Brand had the slogan “Be Like Mike.” Why did kids want to be like him? Because Jordan was doubted, shunned, cut, dealt with gambling issues, and emotionally scarred during his life. Basketball was not his silver spoon. He worked hard for everything that he achieved. He quit the sport to pursue a dream of his and his father’s only to return to the game even better than before because he worked even harder. James on the other hand is seen fraternizing with Jay-Z and spending time in Las Vegas miming jump shots as he walks through casinos. This is hardly dedication to a craft.
Are they both arrogant? Yes. However, one has earned the right to hold himself above his peers because he worked every minute for what he wanted. James still has a long career ahead of him (we should hope). This entire article could prove to be a moot point at some point in the future if tides turn. For them to turn would mean a dramatic shift in the character and motivation of James. He is not one of us. He has embraced his celebrity all too wholly and made the fans the other. A brand is the last thing he should endeavor to be.