LeBron James: Basketball Great or Marketing Tool?

Aram KhayatpourContributor IMay 17, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 13:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers wipes the sweat from his face in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Cavaliers 94-85.  NOTE TO USER: User Expressly Acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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When LeBron James was an 18-year-old high school student, before he had ever stepped onto a professional basketball court, he signed a $90 million contract with Nike. There had been an intense bidding war between the nation’s top shoe brands, but Nike eventually won out because, as LeBron himself put it, they “are committed to supporting me throughout my professional career, on and off the court."

And that is just what they did. Nike created a marketing campaign the likes of which has never been seen. This kid from Akron suddenly became “King James,” and Nike convinced us that we would all be “Witnesses” to his greatness.

Had he proved himself?

Had he done anything great on the professional level?

Had he even played in one pro game?

No, but it sold shoes, jerseys, and shirts, so overall, it was a huge success.

But that was seven years ago, now we have a body of work for James, and it’s been a little disappointing. In seven years LeBron has been good—really good—but he hasn’t achieved greatness. He has failed to win a game in the NBA finals, getting swept in his only appearance, and for the second year in a row he made an early playoff exit with the best regular season team in the league.

LeBron’s career is far from over, and he is by no means a bust, but from what we have seen thus far, the self-proclaimed “King” has seen many other players achieve where he has repeatedly failed. He may end up being a great player, maybe even in the conversation as a Top 10 all-time player, but so far all we have seen is that “The Chosen One” had been chosen because of his ability to sell shoes rather than his inability win basketball championships.