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Just this past week, LeBron James in what was a spectacularly stupid blunder, staged a one hour infomercial to his own greatness on national TV. The problem in Mr. James’ case was his tragic misappraisal of his own relevancy and the public’s collective appetite for it. The galling spread between the two is the issue here. What LeBron did was break the 11thcommandment of cool.

The first issue was that LeBron thought he was a bigger deal than he was. Yet this in itself is not uncommon or a crime, (we all know celebrities are inherently egocentric and vain); it was the fact that he broadcast it to the world in a one-hour love fest to himself. His performance last week was akin to saying to the nation; “I am a really, really big deal and you all can’t get enough of me.” When in fact we thought he was a just a “big deal” and “we like him.”

The public’s adoration for LeBron is a function of his talents as an athlete but moreover, he is relevant because the masses say he is. Dedicated basketball geeks that worship his genius on the court represent a very small percentage of his national following; very few members of the general public know anything about him as a basketball player.  His tangible sporting talents matter to a very few and it is his image that makes him famous to many more. His ability to transcend the sport and become this generation’s answer to Michael Jordan relies on his actions off the court as a brand, and when you’re cool it is decidingly uncool to admit to it, and even more so to do something to show you think you are cooler than you really are.

Verbally acknowledging this, as his “special” did by proxy, severely impacted his celebrity, demoted his status and turned the public against him. What he should remember is that the public made him, and they can also break him. His importance is derived from our consent. Fame is fickle and fleeting, and Mr. James just broke its cardinal rule.

-Ian Walker

 

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