It's a "PR nightmare." That's the prevailing consensus when the name LeBron James is uttered. Pardon me, but I don't quite get it.
The self-professed "King" has been accused of gross narcissism for his Decision to announce to the world his choice to join the Miami Heat during an hour-long program on ESPN. But if he's guilty of being an egomaniac, many of us are enablers. Nearly 10 million people tuned in at 9pm on July 8 to see the spectacle.
And the blogosphere, not to mention the traditional media, couldn't stop covering every second leading up to it. It was LeBron all the time. The man built anticipation to a crescendo and managed to keep one of the most anticipated announcements in recent memory secret despite rampant efforts by all media outlets to uncover it. Not such a terrible description for an effective PR campaign, is it?
Did he handle this episode perfectly? Of course not. There's simply no way to assuage the fans of a jilted hometown, especially one with such an abysmal sports history. (The most recent pro sports championship in Cleveland came in 1964 when the Browns won the NFL Championship.) He could have softened the blow to some extent by giving his ex-employer some advance notice, instead of embarrassing the team and city by so publicly shunning them. James had to know how devastating his decision would be. Some PR savvy would have at least left the door open for a degree of understanding in Northeast Ohio - eventually. Now, he'll be hated in that town for a very long time.
However, before we anoint James the poster child for all that's wrong with pro athletes, some perspective is in order. James fulfilled his obligations to the Cavaliers gloriously. He was a respected ambassador for the organization and the league since he turned pro.
Mind you, he didn't use performance-enhancing drugs, engage in sexually deviant behavior, carry firearms into a crowded club, or run a dog-fighting syndicate - all offenses linked to prominent sports figures in the very recent past. He made a sound decision to go where he felt he could win the most titles. He even left money on the table to do so.
In the end, this is a 25-year-old kid who displayed bad judgment and got caught up in his own press clippings. Worse "crimes" have been committed. And if I'm not mistaken, Cleveland did not disappear off the map on Friday morning, July 9. If his "brand" is truly and irreparably damaged by the events of July 8, perhaps we all need to reconsider how we evaluate such things.
Gideon Fidelzeid is the senior editor of PRWeek. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.