LeBron James: Breaking Down Who He's Giving the Finger To in New Ad

Elliott PohnlFeatured ColumnistOctober 25, 2010

LeBron James: Breaking Down Who He's Giving the Finger to in New Ad

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    LeBron James' new Nike ad, entitled "Rise," provides the consumer with an informal roll call of all the haters who have rained on his pre-championship, self-promotional parade.

    The spot features LeBron asking a simple question to a complicated answer:

    "What should I do?"

    It also features an abundance of jabs at his critics, ranging from his detractors in high school to the Round Mound of Rebound himself, Charles Barkley.

    In the end, a running jab aimed at another more famous member of the Dream Team forms the most interesting subplot to the story.

    Here's a look at the LeBron's new Nike ad, followed by a list of the intended targets of his subtle shots.

What Should I Do?

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    Here's a look at Nike's new LeBron spot.  See if you can pick out all the subtle shots he takes early in the piece.

    There is one jab in particular that isn't so subtle.

    Overall, the ad is another brilliant work by Nike.  It shapes the image of a superstar, while ultimately shoving his brand in our faces for 90 seconds.

    And to think it's all designed to sell us some shiny new shoes.

    Now let's take a closer look at the complete roster of LeBron's diss track.

The Decision: Should I Admit That I've Made Mistakes?

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    Before the audio even begins, LeBron James sits in a director's chair with a teleprompter rolling ready to make his infamous decision.

    Targets: All of the detractors who said taking his future plans public in a television special was the act of an arrogant jerk.

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    Right away, we know what this ad is going to be about.  Right away, we are reminded what got us to this point.  And right away, so many fans who used to like LeBron are reminded why they don't any longer.

    What better way to draw attention than by getting things all riled up?

    It could be argued that LeBron is in fact admitting "The Decision" was a mistake.  But based on the tenor of the spot, it looks like he is merely laying the groundwork for what is yet to come.

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10

Should I Remind You I've Done This Before?

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    Targets: LeBron takes aim at the critics who forgot he has made big decisions before, most notably choosing to go straight to the NBA out of high school.

    That really has worked out pretty well.

    Eff You Factor: 6 out of 10 (Not Very High)

    LeBron's actions have been painted as immature at various times throughout his life.

    Whether it was rolling up to Saint Vincent-Saint Mary in a new Hummer or announcing the destination for his talents, his actions have been scrutinized.

    Ultimately, LeBron wants to remind us that he is capable of making good decisions, even if we refuse to give him credit.

    Effectiveness: 7 out of 10

Should I Give You a History Lesson?

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    Targets: The targets of this question could go in a number of different directions.

    LeBron could be looking to remind us about the history of African-Americans in the United States, perpetuating the belief that racism is still alive and well.  Although he seemed to backpedal from his comments during a CNN interview last month, it is reasonable to assume his statement wasn't merely answering a question.

    LeBron might also be taking a shot at Cleveland with his question, reminding Northeast Ohio how much life he brought to the area for over a decade between high school and the NBA.

    Either way, there's some anger behind the question.

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    Whether he is bringing up racism or referencing how quickly Ohio turned its back on him despite all of his accomplishments and what he brought to the area, LeBron is sending a message.

    Message received.

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10

Should I Tell You How Much Fun We Had?

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    Target: This one goes out to Cleveland.  LeBron wants to remember his days with the Cavaliers in a positive manner.

    He just wants to be loved.

    Eff You Factor: 6 out of 10 (Not Very High)

    After a harsh question, LeBron looks to remind us of his happier times in Cleveland.

    No matter how hard he tries to calm the water in Northeast Ohio, Lake Erie isn't going to stop churning anytime soon.

    Effectiveness: 3 out of 10

    And the Witness banner falls...

Should I Really Believe I Wrote My Legacy?

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    Targets: All the critics who said LeBron destroyed his legacy by signing with the Heat, taking a place among other stars to have a better chance to finally win a title.

    The list is too long to name, but includes former superstars like Michael Jordan and plenty of members of the media.

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    LeBron James is standing on the podium at his Hall of Fame introduction, speaking to an empty ballroom.

    The shot is a powerful reminder of exactly how fickle the notion of a player's legacy can be.

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10

Should I Have My Tattoo Removed?

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    Target: The critics who say LeBron isn't, in fact, the Chosen One, but instead an overrated player who hasn't won anything yet.

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    It's subtle, but the jab is there.  That makes two jabs in a row that really should resonate with LeBron's critics.

    Instead of being himself, removing the tattoo would be an act of humility.

    In the end, that simply would hurt him too much.

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10


Should I Just Sell Shoes?

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    Targets: The critics who say LeBron is merely a marketing chip and doesn't bring anything more to the table as a basketball player.

    This question gives the consumer the feeling that LeBron might know his image is damaged beyond repair.

    The best thing he can do is think about himself.

    Eff You Factor: 7 out of 10 (Pretty High)

    Since part of this question could be aimed at himself, it's difficult to figure out what exactly LeBron is asking here.

    In the end, he could be making a social statement by trying to convey his place as a marketing pawn in the Nike machine.

    Instead of being a person or even being a basketball player, he is merely an asset.

    How's that for irony?

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10

Should I Tell You I Am Not a Role Model?

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    Target: Charles Barkley.  Few former players have been more critical of LeBron's decision and the way he handled it than Sir Charles.

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    Barkley's famous words in a Nike commercial have been debated ad nauseum throughout history.  Apparently, LeBron isn't buying the fact that athletes aren't role models.

    A camera cuts to an angry LeBron, letting his elbows swing around freely while holding the ball.

    He takes it a step further by taking a bite of a glazed doughnut then saying, "Hi Chuck," before winking at the camera.

    That one really hit home.

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10

Should I Tell You I'm a Championship Chaser?

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    Targets: The critics who said LeBron is looking for an easy way to win a ring.  Barkley and Jordan are at the head of the list.

    Starting to sense a theme?

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    LeBron already wondered if he needs to be more humble earlier in the ad, so it's only natural for him to ask if sacrificing personal game for wins is a good idea.

    Talk about a classic catch-22 situation.

    The quest to regain love and admiration in the public eye will be difficult, and comments by former players like Barkley and Jordan are a big reason why.

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10

Should I Be Who You Want Me to Be?

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    Target: All of his critics throughout the basketball world and society in general.  It's a long list.

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    At about 45 seconds into the spot, the real theme manifests itself.

    Instead of following in Michael Jordan's footsteps and asking us to be like LeBron, the King wonders if he should be who we want him to be.

    That creates the perfect transition into LeBron's next question...

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10

Should I Accept My Role as a Villan?

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    Target: His critics and maybe even Kobe Bryant.

    After being accused of rape, Kobe tried to repair his image but soon learned only winning would do the trick.  While LeBron wants to be loved, Kobe doesn't mind being hated.

    This is getting crazy.

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    LeBron still cares about being loved, but his question suggests he is starting to realize that the public will need to see some rings before giving him credit.

    How many will it take to forget?

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10

Should I Just Disappear?

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    Target: His critics who said they are tired of talking about LeBron James everyday.

    Maybe a world without LeBron would in fact be a better place.

    Then again, maybe not.

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    If LeBron were to actually disappear, what would we talk about?  The 2010-2011 NBA is one of the most anticipated in league history, thanks in large part to the migration of talent to South Beach.

    Like it or not, the media and the public need LeBron to stick around.

    Did you really think the commercial was over?  Not quite yet.

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10

Should I Stop Listening to My Friends?

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    Target: William Wesley and others who advised LeBron to stop listening to members of his Mickey Mouse Club, led by Maverick Carter.

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    Few people in James' inner circle have taken more blame than Carter, who reportedly convinced the King to announce his decision on the hour-long television special.

    LeBron has denied those reports vigorously, but there is no question he has spurned the advice of many to listen to his friends.

    Just ask Worldwide Wes.

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10

Should I Try Acting?

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    Targets: Everyone who wants LeBron to act in a certain way.  Could he also be taking a shot at Don Johnson's acting skills?

    Let's not get carried away.

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    LeBron seeks some acting tips from the former Miami Vice icon but doesn't look very comfortable.

    His reaction suggests he doesn't want anything to do with acting a certain way.

    In the end, he will be who he wants to be.

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10

Should I Read You a Soulful Poem?

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    Targets: Another group photo.  LeBron has some words for his critical masses, saying he will rise no matter what people say about him.

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    LeBron takes a stab at answering the question he has just spent the last 70 or so seconds asking us.

    He promises to rise above all the negative words and hateful glances, providing what could be a fitting end to the brilliant spot.

    The spot drags on and it appears LeBron isn't convinced of what he should do quite yet.

    Effectiveness: 7 out of 10

Should We Just Start Over?

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    Target: His former fans who turned their backs on him after the decision.

    Eff You Factor: 1 out of 10 (Extremely Low)

    LeBron is trying to make nice, hopping in a Caterpillar end loader and destroying the basketball court with the promise of building a new one.

    Is LeBron really showing remorse for his actions?

    Don't be fooled. The most telling jab is yet to come.

    Effectiveness: 10 out of 10

Should I Be Who You Want Me to Be?

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    Target: Michael Jeffery Jordan and his legacy as a basketball icon.

    Eff You Factor: 10 out of 10

    LeBron asks that question again, wondering if he should be who we want him to be.

    And just like that, he rises towards the basket with the ball and finishes with his right hand.

    The move looks eerily similar to Jordan's "spectacular move" against the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

    After hearing M.J. say he would never have allied himself with his primary competitors when he played, LeBron seems to have picked the perfect way to end the spot.

    In some ways, everything from the failed Hall of Fame speech to the acting career to that memorable final question can be viewed as a running jab on Michael Jordan.

    You can bet this ad will be remembered as one of the most thought-provoking spots in sports history.

    Ultimately, it is certain to get a big rise out of Jordan and Barkley, whether they admit it or not.