Wednesday, November 28, 2012

LeBron James in Two Years and Two Commercials

Much has been discussed of LeBron's desire to shed the villain image he earned after so acrimoniously departing the Cavaliers for a South Beach team with nobody named Jawad Williams or Antawn Jamison on it. His "Rise" Nike commercial in response to the backlash to "The Decision" epitomized LeBron's effort to cast himself as some dissident anti-hero (with explicit homage to Barkley's "I'm not a role model"). It was almost like LeBron (perhaps at the behest of his courtiers) sought to rebrand himself as the next Kobe or Jordan. But there's no marketing or branding or recreating a Kobe/  Jordan. Those two are supernaturally egomaniacal. They're competition addicts that unlike the rest of humanity are incapable of basking in success. For them competition feeds a beast that always wants more. Only in the immediate aftermath of epochal successes (i.e., NBA Titles) will they hug a trophy and exhibit short-term exigence. But that wears off and they're back jonesing  and expecting to repeat the feat but next time with greater intensity. "Not five rings? Not six rings? . . . " That wasn't LeBron. That was LeBron impersonating what he thinks Jordan or Kobe would think or say. Save his fingernail-biting LeBron doesn't possess that sort of obsessive compulsive, fixated mentality. His gift is that he's the closest thing to superhuman that this generation of humans will witness. It's a combination of spectacular work ethic, intelligence and an ability to transport a large amount of mass with nonhuman speed and quickness. The commercial ends with LeBron asking, "Should I be who you want me to be?"

Which in this more recent commercial LeBron answers that he wants to be who he thinks you [fans] want him to be. After winning his first title, LeBron joins Samsung and fans are introduced to a debranded (or, unrebranded) LeBron. Where in the "Rise" commercial LeBron basically mocks fans for thinking they could understand his position or have an idea what it takes to win a title, the Samsung commercial opens from almost the exact opposite perspective. LeBron is making breakfast for his sons, sharing bites of cereal with them, playfully goofing around over a silly picture, and the scene ends with a shot of (presumably) his fiancee and a text from Magic Johnson, a much more respectable and likable basketball analyst than the "friends (read entourage)" he cites in the "Rise" commercial. So LeBron, the family man. The rest of the commercial consists of a lighthearted man-of-the-people montage: driving through Miami while enamored kids chase after him, stopping to take pictures with fans, visiting a pedestrian barber shop, and taking a call from a coach from his amateur days to remind us that LeBron hasn't changed (kind of mash-up of JLo's "Jenny from the Block" and Us Weekly's "Celebs are just like us" segments). None of this is to say that this 'new' LeBron is disingenuous; rather LeBron won his title and now seems confident in how he wants to present his public image.

1 comment:

  1. LeBron suuuuuucks. Though I do believe there's something to Lebron riding in a LeBaron? Think about it. Marketing genius.