An image is a terrible thing to waste.
It’s something that’s built over years and years and years…and can crumble in an instant.
When you think of the “good guys” in sports history, names like Peyton Manning, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Jr., Wayne Gretzky, Barry Sanders, Ken Griffey, Jr., Larry Bird, Derek Jeter, Joe Montana and more pop up. These are the players that, no matter how much you loathed their teams, you still respected them as individuals.
And then there are the “bad guys.” People like Ben Roethlisberger, Kobe Bryant, Alex Ovechkin (as much as it pains me to say!), Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Ty Cobb may have a rabid local fan base, but their national images dovetailed during their careers for their playing style, off-field activities and general demeanor.
And there is one man currently in limbo between those two places: LeBron James.
Good: He is the most excellent basketball player in the world today.
Bad: He abandoned his hometown team to “take [his] talents to South Beach.” (His words, not mine). Oh yeah. He did it on a live special on ESPN.
Good: He does insane amounts of charity work.
Bad: A controversial report of a recent Vegas trip showed nothing WRONG, but nothing heroic, either.
Good: He has been a team leader since Day One, leading by example and words.
Bad: As good as he’s been, he has never won a championship.
So, where does that leave his public image? I’m caught in the middle. And I think he is, too. He’s definitely at a crossroads and the next 12 months will go a long way in defining his permanent-ish image.
Popularity: 3% [?]