Can The LeBron Brand Remain Likeable?

Disclaimer: This blog entry was written by a devout New York Knicks fan who bawled pathetically when the Knicks lost in the NBA Finals circa 1999. Of course, there is a non-biased approach to this entry. Thursday July 8th 2010 9:28PM EST marked the expiration date for the long and drawn out saga that was NBA superstar LeBron James' free agency period. Each day from the moment his now former team The Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Boston Celtics disappointingly in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals the media circus was buzzing. Not only traditional media, but social media as well.

Here's how social media played a role in LeBron's big announcement:

Please Don’t Leave 23”  was the Cleveland initiative to reflect the unconditional love that the city has had for their hometown hero.

“C’mon LeBron” was the New York City movement which encouraged New Yorkers to show support via Facebook and Twitter. The C'Mon LeBron Facebook page reached over 6,000 likers and featured user created content pleading their case as to why LeBron James should join the New York Knicks. Content ranged from native New Yorkers offering LeBron free haircuts to Rachel Ray offering him a home cooked meal upon signing.

Not only were fans creating conversation socially about LeBron’s decision, but also LeBron himself. Three days before LeBron's big decision "LeBron James" was a promoted Twitter trend. That same day LeBron James finally created a twitter account (@kingjames) which gained over 150K followers within 5 hours. The LeBron social media attack came late and right when the pot was about to boil over. Was this merely to command the hype of the moment and spread it socially? It is common for major athletes to be active on Twitter. Current Heat teammate Chris Bosh, who has always been prominent on Twitter, documented his free agency journey with tweets about meetings with other teams. Initially giving his followers up to date information on which NBA team he will sign with, and ultimately tweeting “YEEEEEEEESSSSSSSS!!!!” when LeBron made the announcement official.

The spectacle of the one hour special broadcasted on ESPN entitled “The Decision” brought upon a flurry of tweets and status updates relating to the buildup. Notable tweets came from an account dubbed @LebronJamesEgo which lampooned the audacity of the NBA star to create such hype around a free agency period. Then finally at 9:28PM EST when everything was said and done the backlash started. Facebook statuses and tweets from those cities who courted LeBron spoke of betrayal and anger. So much in fact that the “I Hate LeBron James” Facebook group was created and not even within 24 hours has reached over 1,900 likers.

Can LeBron remain likeable after teasing huge cities with a huge social media presence (like New York City and Chicago) and ultimately getting their hopes up for nothing? The backlash from Cleveland, a city that has been down trotten within the sports realm for four decades, came early. YouTube was set ablaze (literally) with uploads of videos from Cavs fans.  Whatever the case may be you can expect the social media world to be buzzing all week with opinions ranging from anger, mockery, and even apathy about one of the most talked about non-sport sports moments of the century. Do you think the LeBron brand is still likeable?  Let us know in the comments!

By Adrian Molina (and Allie Herzog)