LeBron James decision could backfire on NBA business

Monday, December 9th, 2013 By

LeBron James stalking the court in his Team USA jersey, during the Beijing Summer Olympics.

LeBron James could help Miami but hurt the NBA. (Photo: Wikipedia)

LeBron James has decided to pack his bags and bring his highly marketable talents from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat. The free agent deal will team “King” James with noted stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and give head coach Pat Riley yet another opportunity to show why he’s one of the greatest motivators in NBA history. This spells big business for the Heat and Miami and a proverbial kick to the shins for the Cavaliers and Cleveland, but as Bloomberg and other media outlets speculate, is the LeBron James deal actually bad for the NBA?

LeBron James on a Heat super-team is bad for broadcasting

ABC, ESPN and Turner Broadcasting all hold the rights to broadcast NBA games, and it’s safe to say that ratings for their LeBron James/Miami Heat games will top the charts. But when too much talent is concentrated on one team, it takes much of the steam out of broadcasts of the rest of the NBA. The same holds true for gate receipts. NBC Commissioner David Stern surely wants all teams to be successful, but the truth is that most people want to see starts like LeBron James play. As former CBS Sports President Neal Pilson told Bloomberg, “You can’t just show Miami all the time and certainly the TV carriers benefit when you have attractive stars and personalities on multiple teams.”

Interestingly, if LeBron James had signed with the New York Knicks (a team that was in the running), it would have been broadcasting and marketing serendipity. Per Nielsen numbers, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are the top three U.S. TV markets. Miami clocks in at number 17.

‘The Decision’ – Milking it for all it’s worth

LeBron James and posse created an hour-long online program called “The Decision,” which the James camp claims was “prompted by the unprecedented attention and interest” sports fans have in LeBron’s every move. Bloomberg indicates that everyone from the University of Phoenix and Microsoft to Coca-Cola and McDonald’s had a sponsorship stake in the manufactured event. The Boys and Girls Clubs of America even made $2.5 million for being associated with the LeBron James navel-gazing special, so good for them.

And if the Miami Heat lose?

Cleveland and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert will no doubt be happy. Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer newspaper ran a full front page photo of LeBron James walking away, with the headline “Gone” and a subheading that draws attention to the lack of NBA Championship rings on LeBron’s fingers. Dan Gilbert staged a press conference in which he called James a narcissist and condemned his “shocking act of disloyalty” to Cleveland. James’ “heartless and callous action,” according to Dan Gilbert, will spread his “curse” to Miami, a team which Gilbert insists will not win a championship before his Cavaliers. Clearly, “King” James should have something to prove.




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