LeBron James vs. the Media: Why They Need Each Other to Survive

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistJune 13, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JUNE 12:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat posts up Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first quarter in Game One of the 2012 NBA Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena on June 12, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

At first glance, it might seem like the last thing LeBron James needs is anymore media coverage.

After all, more than a few journalists didn't even try to remain objective when covering James' infamous "Decision." The otherwise well-respected Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports drew some criticism of his own for how hard he came down on Miami's newly-acquired star (via Sports Media Watch staff):

Certainly, Wojnarowski parroted many of the now-common criticisms of James – that he quit on his team, that he was narcissistic, selfish, et cetera. This portrayal of James is commonplace, unoriginal. But he didn’t stop there. James’ free agency saga wasn’t a referendum on James the player, or James the businessman. Wojnarowski decided it was a referendum on James the person. 

Of course, Wojnarowski wasn't the only one. Nor has the incessant scrutiny subsided for long enough to print two words about the rest of Miami's roster.

This has become par for the course. Whenever there's so much as a hint of a story surrounding the American institution that is LeBron James, the media pounces like a pack of long-starved wild dogs.

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 09:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat speaks with the media after beating the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on June 9, 2012 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

And when there's really no story to speak of?

Fret not—the most creative of reporters will make much ado about nothing. 

LeBron understands this better than anyone. After taking a pounding for reportedly mocking Dirk Nowitzki's illness during the 2011 NBA Finals, James summed up his philosophy on all the hyperbolized media scrutiny (via Hearst Newspapers' Jonathan Feigen):

"Of course, I get on myself, I'm hard on myself about wanting to play well, because I feel like that's what I need to do for my teammates," he said. "But to answer questions about what's written about me or anything like that, I don't really feed into it. It's going to be written no matter what, no matter if I play well or not. I had a triple double last game. I had a bad game in a lot of people's eyes. I understand that. That's just the situation I'm in. That's the bowl I'm in right now."

James' fans have good reason to take exception to the cadre of LeBron bashers. For every legitimate criticism, there's a heaping helping vitriol not far behind. Such is life as the Kim Kardashian of professional sports.

By that same token, though, the nonstop coverage is what makes James more than just a great basketball player. Sure, his undeniably superlative talent has a lot to do with that too, but it's the cultic obsession that renders his talent so universally appreciated.

As the saying goes, there's no such thing as bad publicity. And in James' case, there's no shortage of that. In 2011, Miami's favorite celebrity made $30 million in endorsements alone, three times what Kobe Bryant earned with such deals. 

You don't make that kind of money shrouded in anonymity. 

The next time you hear Mr. James claiming that all that negative press doesn't bother him, know that he's probably telling the truth. For the clean $30 million all that publicity earns, would it bother you?


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