SBD/Issue 32/NBA Season Preview

LeBron James Confronts Offseason Criticism In New Nike Spot

Watch Nike's Latest Spot
Featuring LeBron James

Nike tonight will formally debut a 90-second ad starring LeBron James as part of "Rise," the company's new multimedia campaign featuring the Heat star. In the spot, which debuted yesterday on YouTube and will air during tonight's Heat-Celtics NBA season opener on TNT, James addresses his tumultuous offseason. The ad opens with James on the set of "The Decision," the heavily criticized ESPN special during which he announced his decision to sign with the Heat, with James asking, "What should I do?" Nike will continue to run the spot, via Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, during sports and entertainment programming on TNT, ESPN and several other networks into November (Nike). The commercial features James "inhabiting various fantasy sequences as he confronts the fallout" from "The Decision." James also takes aim at TNT NBA analyst Charles Barkley, who criticized James this summer. James mimics Barkley's famous "I am not a role model" line from his own Nike campaign, and then says, "Hi Chuck" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/26). In Portland, Allan Brettman noted the ad "takes some comic turns exploring where James should go from here, mostly in the arena of public opinion, not the basketball court" (, 10/25).

TURNING THE TIDE:'s Darren Rovell wrote the "excellent new spot," promoting the launch of Nike's new LeBron 8 sneaker, "did what LeBron himself hasn't been able to do since 'The Decision' took place." Rovell: "It was the first day that the collective sports world thought positively about him. In the first two hours of its release Monday afternoon, approximately 9 out of every 10 people who posted the ad on their Twitter account felt that the ad was good" (, 10/25). In Miami, Israel Gutierrez wrote, "This is the perfect commercial, I think. It's what people have been waiting to hear from LeBron. Leave it to Nike to make it entertaining" (, 10/25). In N.Y., Joanne Gerstner wrote, "Leave it to LeBron James and the creative marketing machine that is Nike to make a clever commercial about his offseason melodrama" (, 10/25). CNBC's Scott Wapner called the ad "provocative, exactly what it's meant to be" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 10/26). USA TODAY's Shuster & Falgoust write a "clever ad won't satisfy some who see it as profiteering by James." But based on the "number of hits on YouTube, it has caught people's attention" (USA TODAY, 10/26). ESPN's Mike Golic: "It was a good commercial. ... It goes a lot of different ways, but I thought the message is clear of what it is trying to be" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 10/26). AD AGE's Aris Georgiadis wrote, "Maybe Nike hopes some of its brand equity will rub off on LeBron. But the last time Nike tried a stunt like this, with Tiger Woods, the effort didn't go over too well" (, 10/25).

GOOD, BUT NOT PERFECT: TRUEHOOP's Henry Abbott: "Stunningly, masterfully, boldly ... at times maybe a little over the top" (, 10/25).'s Tom Scocca wrote the "Rise" commercial is "almost a masterpiece of critic-proofing." The "only criticism the commercial doesn't anticipate or outflank is the criticism that James is only able to relate to the public" through a TV ad (, 10/25). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Christopher John Farley writes James' rhetorical question, "What should I do?," is a "mocking one, because he doesn’t really want an answer to the question." The question is "meant to illustrate the ridiculousness of even asking it -- James is saying that he should make his own life decisions." Farley adds, "And even as James mocks former fans for having the presumption that they can tell him what to do, he’s kind of telling us what to do -- starting buying James-endorsed products again, and lots of them" (, 10/26). ESPN's Michelle Beadle: "What should you do? Win a ring and stop whining just because everyone now hates you. He doesn't like to be the bad guy. Now he's a victim." Beadle added, "He realizes all of a sudden not everybody loves him. He's not used to that, so now what we're seeing is this guy who wants to lash out at the negative people" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 10/25). 

Does LeBron Take Shot At
Michael Jordan In Latest Spot?

RESPECTING HIS ELDERS? Basketball HOFers Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley during the offseason were critical of James' move to sign with the Heat and of the hour-long televised special in which he announced his free-agent decision. ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said James and the ad, "He crushes Michael Jordan. ... It puts him in an empty room in a Hall of Fame induction ceremony after a speech. It kills him. It kills Barkley with a doughnut." Kornheiser: "I'm wondering this: If you're Phil Knight, Michael Jordan has made so much money for you, so much more than LeBron James has made for you, do you say to Michael Jordan, 'Get ready for this one, pal?'" ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "I don't think it kills Jordan. I think it goes after Barkley. But it's an aggressive commercial and basketball is an aggressive sport. It's an in your face sport. It's appropriate for the tone of it" ("PTI," ESPN, 10/25).

NOT A COURAGEOUS STAND:'s Jason Whitlock writes, "It’s good work. James is self-deprecating without being remorseful. He’s feisty toward and humorous at the expense of Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley without being remotely disrespectful. He’s vulnerable and transparent without sacrificing a drop of street cred. It’s a wonderful 90-second TV commercial. I’m sure Tiger Woods is jealous." But what "it's not is courageous." Whitlock: "It would’ve taken real courage for James to look into a camera and admit that his exit from Cleveland lacked the appropriate amount of grace and respect given the lifelong adoration and support Ohio lauded on James" (, 10/26). Syndicated radio host Dan Patrick: "The LeBron commercial was well done. He's self deprecating in it. I think there's a little irreverence in there. I think he's having fun, he's poking fun, there's a lot in there. I just don't want this to be confused with 'he's courageous.' ... LeBron James made a decision" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 10/26).

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