I see nothing wrong with this message from LeBron James, especially since he appears to be answering the critics whose perspective was championed by Charles Barkley. I strongly disagree with what Barkley and his supporters were saying about the future implications of LeBron’s team selection, and I believe Charles’ reasoning was historically irrational and misguided. Essentially, Charles said LeBron should have chosen to stay with the Cavaliers primarily because that would’ve allowed him to be the undisputed leader rather than just a super cog. Furthermore, Charles argued that by not staying in Cleveland, LeBron was somehow dishonoring the cultural status of NBA basketball by rejecting the notion of competing with superstars like D-Wade for the top NBA dog spot. According to Charles, this was the true effect of LeBron joining a team that already featured another player of roughly equal star status. Never mind that Charles, who never won an NBA championship, was thinking about his own ego needs, and wasn’t really speaking from first-hand knowledge of what makes LeBron tick.
So what I see here is simply LeBron’s rebuttal, which I believe focuses on the unspoken statement: “Until you’ve actually experienced the level of pressure that I’ve had to deal with, do your homework before telling me what decision I should make." I believe LeBron has a good point too. Although Charles got a lot of press starting with his growing notoriety as “the round mound of rebound” at Auburn U, the media pressure that top athletes face now in the age of social media has added new layers of privacy-destroying pressures that Charles never experienced during his playing career.
It wasn’t just Charles, either. Much of the criticism I heard when LeBron first announced moving to the Heat was based on what the critics wanted for themselves, without any regard whatsoever for what LeBron might have felt was best for himself. Personally, regardless of how much money an athlete makes, I refuse to see that huge paycheck as a justification for expecting the athlete to relinquish his human feelings and frailties as if he were some kind of ball-playing android. And ultimately, that’s the kind of thinking that I believe LeBron is using this ad to rebut. Should he concern himself with what’s being said about him? Well, it’s awfully hard not to when brand perception is so powerful a force.
Dr. T's previous column about LeBron: It's Really About NBA Brand Imaging; Not LeBron