Is Lebron James the Most Hated Athlete of All Time?

BJ84VprCYAAgVUy.jpg-largeWas it ‘The Decision‘?

Was it how much he was hyped coming out of high school?

Was it all of the endorsement deals, the endless visibility?

Why is Lebron James the most hated superstar in all of sports history?

Here is a guy who is very well put-together. He says the right things, avoids saying the wrong things. He projects himself to be a student of the game, to have an appreciation for those that came before and trying to put accomplishments into historical context. He’s a father and avoids controversy. He played high school basketball, got drafted by his local professional franchise and even led them to an NBA Finals appearance.

Why is Lebron James so hated?

It is because he is the product of a corporate machine coupled with overexposure behind the power of social media.

lebron cryBefore you criticize Lebron, for his comparisons to the all-time greats, for his brash pronouncements for trying to win multiple titles, or for his announcement to take his “talents” to Miami, think about how you became aware of these moments along his timeline. Lebron has had these events served right up to your eyeballs because of the whims of corporations looking to cash in on this golden goose to steer their products into your lives.

The Decision? Brought to you by Jim Gray and ESPN.

Comparisons to Jordan? Lebron, like many other players, may fancy such a vision but the discussion is carried out by talking heads who have 24 hours of airtime to fill and in order to get an audience, they need to incite controversy.

His high school messianic days? Televised by ESPN.

His cramps? Brought to you by an air condition-less AT&T Center in San Antonio televised by ABC, who is owned by Disney, and at the frustration of Gatorade, which sponsors the press conferences with their product shots and endless commercials.

Yet, you hate him. And still, the corporations continue to push Lebron out there in front of you all to peddle their products before your eyes.

Perhaps it is because Lebron is such a polarizing figure that he makes for a great pitch man. Perhaps also it is because he maintains a squeaky clean image that he continues to be a strong person to hang endorsements on. Think of the Lance Armstrong controversy. The Donald Sterling fall out for the Clippers. Or the Kobe Bryant affair which led to some dark times for his image and backers. Even Jordan has some darkness in his life, gambling, losing his father. He took time off from basketball to go try and play baseball. Imagine for a second if any of those episodes happened in Lebron’s world. He would be chased to the ends of the Earth.

queen-jamesLebron is the product of his age. As seemingly the most hated athlete in professional sports, he manages himself very well. He probably takes as much criticism as the president yet on he goes, competing and chasing after his vision of greatness. You can question what fuels that, maybe even disagree with how he plays the game. But results are results. If not for Twitter, Facebook, and endless voices competing for attention, you may have a completely different image of Lebron James.

Instead Lebron embraces it. The spotlight has shaped him. If such a light was shined on other premier athletes of their day, things would be very different. Would Jordan have been as accepting of such visibility and scrutiny? In his day, there was only a one-way transmission of his image. There was no way to voice your opinion with a giant bullhorn, amplifying your voice among others like you can with social media. You were alone in screaming at the TV. There was endless mental masturbation from the pundits of his day over Jordan. There were many fans, nationwide, that couldn’t stand Jordan and his propped up image.  There were rumors and controversy and distasteful moments for Jordan but the difference was the message was much more tightly controlled. Today, the dissidents have their platform for voicing their disagreement. Many don’t want to buy the concocted image of Lebron James and instead choose how they see him and will project that imagery to others who are like-minded. Let’s face it, human nature being what it is, is filled with the ability to make comparisons and when people see someone else with envy, you can expect that the comparisons will not be positive and love-filled.

So Lebron continues on. A product of the corporations that are backing him, an amalgam of different narratives to sell products. Yet, at its heart is a person, a man, trying to accomplish great things being armed with great talents. Will that ever be seen by those that are not considered his “fans”? Probably not, probably never. Yet note that even the hatred for Lebron is manufactured – and you have bought into that hook, line, and sinker.