SBD/June 14, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

LeBron's Reputation Takes Another Hit After Finals Loss, Postgame Interview

James' postgame comments on Sunday may not go over well with fans

Heat F LeBron James is "setting off on another offseason in which he'll desperately need to rebuild his reputation," according to Mitch Lawrence of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. After giving a "mysteriously passive Finals performance" against the Mavericks, James was "more dangerous with a microphone and in front of the cameras than he ever was with the ball." Asked after Sunday night's Game Six loss if it "bothered him that so many people were happy to see him fail," James said, "Absolutely not. Because at the end of the day, all the people that was rooting on me to fail ... they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do." Lawrence writes if James was "trying to alienate more fans, he certainly accomplished it." James has been "doing a fine job of killing himself with basketball fans over the last 13 months," and that response together with his "classless mocking with Dwyane Wade of Dirk Nowitzki in front of TV cameras were the low points everyone will remember from one of the best Finals in years" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/14). FORBES' Mike Ozanian wrote the postgame interview was "bad business by LeBron." Many of his "lucrative sponsorship deals, like McDonald's and Coca-Cola, are with companies that cater to the very people that James belittled with his remarks." Ozanian: "If James wants to remain the NBA's leading earner from endorsements, he needs to think about who buys the products he pitches before he speaks" (FORBES.com, 6/13). Comcast SportsNet's Brian Mitchell said, "He has to understand those 'nothings' are the ones making you rich." Comcast SportsNet's Michael Jenkins: "I have never seen a professional athlete who was so self-unaware" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 6/13).

TIME TO LOOK IN THE MIRROR: CNBC.com's Darren Rovell wrote James "hasn't seen the error of his ways." He "still doesn't get that fans aren't mad at his actual decision to leave Cleveland, but the way 'The Decision' show went down" on ESPN. Rovell added, "And he still doesn't understand that the reason he is disliked so much is because he brings it on. It's the little things that continue to push him back. Getting involved in petty antics like his coughing fit with Dwyane Wade, meant to mimic their opponent Dirk Nowitzki" (CNBC.com, 6/13). In Boston, Gary Washburn writes, "Right now, LeBron James is just an overhyped superstar who badly needs an image makeover. He desperately needs a mentor to coach him through these difficult career moments because, quite honestly, he’s blowing it. And his crew isn’t helping him much." Regardless of whether his comment Sunday night "is true, the worst thing a professional athlete can do is flaunt his wealth and lifestyle in the face [of] the working man." Washburn: "For someone who wanted to be Michael Jordan as a youngster, this was about as far from MJ as one could get" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/14). In N.Y., Jorge Castillo wrote under the header, "Does James Need His Own PR Firm?" Since "The Decision" last summer, James "has come under fire whenever he has taken a misstep or failed to succeed." Castillo: "Sometimes you want to feel bad for him. Then he does something that sweeps the sympathy right out of you, and makes you wonder what kind of advice he’s getting -- if any at all" (NYTIMES.com, 6/13).

CHANGE WILL DO YOU GOOD: In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell wrote there "still is plenty of time to get this right" for the 26-year-old James, but "before that can happen, James needs to admit to his shortcomings." Off the court during the Finals, he "continued to behave like an immature kid." Burwell: "I don't think LeBron is a villain. I just think he is an incredibly immature young man who has surrounded himself with too many people who were ill-equipped to help him through this journey. He is working with people who were back-slappers and yes men, toadies and sycophants who enabled him because they didn't know what else to do" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 6/14). USA TODAY's Mike Lopresti writes, "James is now in the news media grinder, where big-name players go to suffer. They hype you to absurd proportions, and then tear you down when you turn out less than unbeatable" (USA TODAY, 6/14). In Newark, Dave D'Alessandro writes under the header, "LeBron James Needs More Talk About Basketball, Less About His Brand" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/14). Bill Sutton & Associates Principal Bill Sutton said, "There's no question he lost some marketability. ... A lot of this goes back to 'The Decision.' He went from one of the most respected athletes to one of the most reviled." But TrinityOne Sports CEO Lou Imbriano said, "Everybody guns for the guy on top. Everybody enjoys seeing a guy like LeBron enjoy some misery. He's still marketable. He's probably one of the three most marketable athletes in the U.S., if not the world" (ADAGE.com, 6/13). Octagon VP & First Call Managing Dir David Schwab on his blog wrote, "In today's world, legacies are (unfairly) defined at point-in-times. LeBron has work ahead of him." Conversely, Schwab wrote Wade's marketability "increased this post-season." He is a "top-five player and should be marketed as such" (OCTAGONFIRSTCALL.com, 6/13).

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