LeBron's Path to 'Global Icon' Status
One of the (very) few running punchlines of LeBron James' NBA career stems from a feature from a 2006 issue of Ad Age, in which one of his friends/marketers says the ultimate goal in developing the brand of LeBron is to turn him into "a global icon." The nickname has stuck, in sort of a jocular, demeaning way. No one doubts LeBron's drawing power in Shanghai or London; it's just that folks don't get away with walking around saying, "I'm big in Belgium." Pride's a sin, and all that.
This is all beside the point of basketball, except when said would-be Global Icon sticks a $50 million price tag on his bicep and apparently opens the bidding from Europe. Surely LeBron does not actually need to star in Athens or Moscow to earn his title -- he actually has a museum in China (built by Nike, but still ...). He's enormous, everywhere. In a practical sense, he needs an Olympiakos jersey like Kevin Garnett needs swagger and Gilbert Arenas needs social bravery.
But what lies within LeBron that might make Europe attractive? Let us not forget (like we could) Michael Jordan left in the NBA in the prime of his career to play minor league baseball, which is a huge stride different than the #2 basketball league in the world. There are differences, yes: Jordan had just won three titles, baseball was a connection to his father. But the greatest star in the world left the NBA once, and it could happen again.
LeBron's personal aspirations in and out of basketball are greater than I can comprehend. (I aspire to wake up on time tomorrow.) We -- me and you, Cavs fans, David Stern -- can guess all we want, but no one but LeBron and his circle of trust can ascertain how serious this is. The elite have mysterious minds. That this story leaked intentionally to the media -- an Ohio guy, ESPN's Chris Broussard -- gives an indication this is no joke. Dismiss it at your own peril.