Down with King James, Down with Personal Brands

There is justice in the world. Today the Dallas Mavericks are the NBA Champions. The victory ends an angst filled year in which the basketball world watched to see if Miami and its trio of personal brands — LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh — could buy a championship. In the end, a team of less talented, but veteran hard workers beat them.

The Miami Heat is one of the most vilified teams in history. They became the team that everyone wanted to lose.

Deservedly so. With an unprecedented brashness celebrating their stardom, they represented everything that is unappealing in the American celebrity culture. The trio — and in particular, Lebron James — were icons that embraced a fame and web culture revolving around the development of personal brands to achieve notoriety and fame on social networks like Twitter.

It began with LeBron James unbelievably narcissistic ESPN show “The Decision” to announce, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” The list from there was extensive; from Lebron’s announcement to the Miami Heat Welcome Party (above video) all the way to game 5 of the championship series and Lebron James and Dwayne Wade mocking Dirk Nowitzki‘s playing through 101 degree fever. The deplorable behavior ranged from personal branding (and @kingjames’ many gaffes on Twitter), celebrity needs in an attention economy, the devaluation of team behavior, and a whiny lack of mental toughness.

That’s why it is so fitting that the Mavericks won. Success is not something you just buy. Great things take hard work. Noteworthy accomplishments require a toughness, an ability to get up and fight every day in the face of adversity. It takes spirit and team play, and a willingness a willingness to work through challenges and make sacrifices. Dallas epitomizes all that is right about the human commitment to achieve noteworthy goals.

So today, maybe just for today, the personal branders lose. And the King has no throne. How sweet it is.

P.S. Full disclosure: Caitlin Livingston is from Kent, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.


  • OK, I don’t have a particular problem with personal branding. For some people (boxers, Olympic athletes, and, um, er, filmmakers), it’s a necessary evil. In a team game like basketball, there’s no place for it. And when you announce you’re gonna win 5, 6, 7 Championships, you’d better show up in the fourth quarter.

    If you’re gonna talk the talk, you’d better walk the walk. Ali, Namath, Messier are just some of the names that have backed it up. Lebron & Co seemed to believe that “Star Power” would suffice. They were wrong. Magic Johnson said it best on ESPN last night: “10 guys beat 3 guys.” Cavs owner Dan Gilbert also tweeted: “There are NO SHORTCUTS, NONE.”

    It’s good to see that teamwork and believing in your teammates still can produce positive results. I made sure I shared that lesson with my daughter last night…

    • Yes, perhaps Lebron should pick up tennis. He can do that alone.  Of course, he’ll never win any majors.

  • Cool video! This guys are great!

  • Cool video! This guys are great!

  • Geoff,

    To me this is a great follow to your previous post and the potential of ‘we.’ It took Jordan a few years to learn it. I’m not sure James has the maturity to figure it out yet. Time will tell but for now a great win for the Dallas TEAM. 

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