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Lebron James scores a communications win with his Cleveland return

July 16, 2014

The front page of James’ hometown newspaper, The Plain Dealer, after he announced his return to Cleveland.

Lebron James now understands the true value of his name and what it represents.

Taking my talents to South Beach

What a difference four years makes.  After the ill-conceived LeBron Decision in 2010 tarnished a personal brand many thought was untouchable, Lebron James learned his lesson, got better advisors and did it the right way this time.  It’s not just about the feel good story of him returning to Cleveland, and Northeast Ohio where he grew up, though that also helps.  It was how he handled the whole communication this time around.

Four years ago NBA executives in private jets descended on Cleveland to kiss the ring and try and convince Lebron why he should sign with their team.  Most had no chance, as a lifelong Knicks fan I knew we didn’t really have a shot, it was all just free agent theater.  The free agent Lebron of 2010 was impetuous and demanding, isolated in a tight bubble of advisors and childhood friends.

And then LeBron “took his talents to South Beach” and the hometown hero, boy done good turned into the free agent mercenary, too scared or lazy to try and win on his own, pairing up with two other superstars far from home.  He traded the grit of Cleveland for the glitz of Miami and suddenly the Lebron James brand meant something different.

I’m coming home

Lebron learned from his mistakes.  His four years in Miami were a huge success that included four trips to the finals and two rings.  His jersey was once again the top seller among NBA players last year.  He let his amazing basketball skills do the talking, built his personal brand back up and gave back through charitable activities in South Florida and back home in Northeast Ohio.  But, the Heat were shown up badly by San Antonio in this years NBA Finals and the Big 3 were starting to look significantly diminished.  So when free agency was again an option, he opted out.  And then, nothing.  There was lots of speculation and his agent met with multiple teams, but Lebron stayed silent.  Even the meetings he took were under the radar, well away from the eager media.  Finally, after much anticipation, the prodigal son announced through a heartfelt article in Sports Illustrated that he was returning home.

This time he controlled the message, admitted his past mistakes and stayed as humble as a superstar can.  He kept it classy in a way that will only enhance his brand going forward.

What did you think of LeBron’s announcement? Leave a comment with your thoughts.