Thursday, July 15, 2010

LeBron's "The Decision" Debacle a Classic David vs. Goliath Story

After reading this article suggested by 1/2 of my favorite twins, I asked what she thought of the article.  From a marketing perspective, it's hard to say that it wasn't a great business move, especially after seeing the numbers.  However, from an emotionally vested perspective (as are those Cleveland fans/those sympathetic to the loss) have a much harder time appreciating the unprecedented financial and brand potential this event created.  For them, this was a betrayal in the worst kind. Not only was he turning his back on his home, he was doing it on the grandest stage possible.  Heartbreaking, indeed.

I have to believe that even if LeBron James the athlete didn't like "The Decision" idea, LeBron "King" James The Brand could not argue with the potential.  And it is The Brand that is the economic stimulus for everyone on "Team LeBron".  In good business, emotional decisions rarely are the best "business" decisions.  Such is the case, unfortunately for LeBron James.

The argument for LeBron has been that in order for him to ever take the ranks of "the greatest ever to play the game" he would have to have championships. Emphasis on more than one.  Cleveland was no slouch this past season with the best regular season record, however after going out in the semi-finals were deemed somewhat of a disappointment.  This was suppose to be LeBron's best chance of winning it all with Cleveland.  This was suppose to be the year.  If competitive nature and hard work weren't enough to get it done, what would it take? Perhaps better teammates, like those two that just signed with Miami.  Wouldn't that be the smart move?  Since when is thinking frowned upon in sports?  Are owners and managers the only ones allowed to make intelligent business decisions?

In 1995-96 when the Bulls finished 72-10, nobody discredited their championship due to the two "Hall of Famers" on the roster.  The following year when they picked up another great in Robert Parish and went 69 -13 and another championship, I again heard no cries of compromise of competitive integrity.  Lakers did it in 84-85 and 86-87 with Magic, Kareem, Worthy and again with Shaq and Kobe whose only obstacle to the Hall of Fame is the 5 years after they retire.  The idea that James' championships will not be as great as others should he win in Miami with Wade & Bosh because he needed great players around him isn't as much of an argument as it is how it has worked out for much of history.  It's hard to find a championship team without at least 2 all-star players on roster.  LeBron had Shaq and it's no secret that he's closer to retirement then all-star status.

So is the offense that the players orchestrated this deal right in front of your face instead of the owners and managers behind the scenes?  It's absurd and almost reckless for these athletes, who have far more to lose with their professional careers than just big houses, lavish lifestyles, and expensive cars.  For players like LeBron, Tiger, Dale Junior, Peyton, Favre, T.O. and Ochocinco, they have Brands to protect.  Brands that take a team/army of people that are financially dependent/vested in.  These athletes very closely resemble and are somewhat treated like corporations that are out to protect their bottom line.  This concept has been very hard to grasp from a fans perspective, naturally.

Classic David vs. Goliath Story

As fans, we almost always cheer for the underdog, the compelling story of the small school with the meager athletic budget working hard to beat the few who seem to dominate season after season.  Yankee's, Red Sox, Cowboys, Patriots, Lakers, Celtics, Man U, ND, UNC, Duke, teams that most get more satisfaction from watching them lose then their beloved win.  These are the teams with the largest payrolls, and the best athletes.  Coincidently (or maybe not...) these are the teams with the most championships.  These are your modern day Goliath's.

Seeing these teams defeated gives fans hope.  We don't want to see the Goliath's win because they are suppose to win.  They are superior teams there for they should win.  If, let's say David's of the world out number Goliath's 100/1, we could safely say that most of us would fall into the underdog category.  When David defeats Goliath, it proves that "Hard work pays off".  From a business sense, these David's (= individuals/small business) become "examples" of hard work paying off and achieve Goliath (= big business/corporation) like success.  We see it all the time, Facebook, Google, Hyundai, Zappos, etc.

While it may look like the David's aren't gaining any ground on the battle with the Goliath's, what is actually happening is that as the David's defeat the Goliath's, they are joining the ranks of the Goliath's.  Defeated Goliath's join the David's in the fight to the top once again, thus completing the cycle.  Modern day examples would be ND's football team, Chicago Bulls, and most likely Cleveland's economy.  Cleveland got a taste of what it's like to be a Goliath.  Unfortunately one "Decision" is likely to return them to fight along side the David's of the world once again.  A hard pill to swallow that leaves a very bitter after taste.  Bulls fans know what I'm talking about.  They too were hoping to hitch their train to Team LeBron.

While LeBron James definitely could have chosen many different ways to share where he decided to play 2010-2011's NBA season that wouldn't have left fans torching his jersey and cursing his name, "The Decision" was the best/only decision for "Team LeBron" to insure continued brand growth during this change in scene.  Championships are the ultimate goal for LeBron James whether your talking about the brand or the athlete.  To Cleveland fans this season: as you're cheering on any opponent of The Heat, remember it was just last year that the David's of the league/world were looking to defeat you.