Now that everyone in America has taken a shot at NBA superstar LeBron James, let’s take a look back at how he created his own personal PR nightmare.
This time last summer, James was the superstar, hometown kid who grew up to play for his home team. In sports, there isn’t a better storyline.
So how did he become the most hated person in professional sports? He made a bad decision. And I’m still amazed someone in his inner circle didn’t stop it.
“The Decision,” as it was publicized, was an epic public relations disaster. It instantly hurled a spotless NBA superstar into America’s number one villain. Like many people, I watched the entire hour-long show because I couldn’t believe James and his team would do something so stupid, not because I cared where James was going to play basketball.
Since then, with his constant whining on the floor, immaturity, comments after games and tweets, he has given everyone in America a reason to hate him.
Professional athletes rely on a good public image to sell tickets and make even more money with endorsement deals. If you watched most of the NBA Finals, you probably noticed that only one of James’ sponsors was running new advertisements, State Farm. So where were Nike, Coca-Cola and the others this postseason? My guess is they might be waiting to see how far James is going to fall.
The good news for James is he has the power to alter the course of this conversation. Perceptions can change. As James begins his eighth offseason without an NBA Championship, I have a little advice: you’re already in a deep enough hole, so put down the royal shovel and stop digging!
Stop with the self-serving tweets and comments at news conferences, stop guaranteeing championships and stop complaining during the games. In short, take off your crown! You haven’t done anything to earn fans’ respect, so stop acting like you have.
Then call your agent and have him set up with a lunch with the former captain of the Detroit Red Wings and now-general manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Steve Yzerman. Listen to what he says about what it means to be a leader and a champion – or king of a sport, if you like that better.
Finally, take this offseason to focus on doing your part to control the media circus around you and getting better at the sport you love. Until you do, you will continue to make it harder for you – and your team – to get your crown.