Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Fans: LeBron’s Image Won’t Be Repaired With A Title

LeBron James
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Following “The Decision,” where LeBron James declared he’d take his talents from Cleveland to Miami, he went from being hero to a villain in the eyes of many.

People who once rooted for his greatness started cheering for his downfall. They clapped at his inability to make the big shots at the end and reveled in his disappointment of losing to the Mavericks in last year’s NBA Finals.

With the Heat up 3 games to 1, and LeBron on the cusp of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in his nine-year NBA career, the question is, does finally winning the big one change how people think of the NBA’s “King.”

The answer seems to be a resounding no, and it’s not just coming from spurned Cavaliers fans.

I asked this question to my Twitter followers: If you dislike LeBron, would winning a title change your opinion? Out of the 404 people who voted, 82 percent said no, with 4.4 percent saying yes, while the other 13.6 percent said it depends on how he celebrates. Does he go down on one knee and get emotional or does he play the “me against the world” card?

“Winning helps, but you have to be perceived in a way that you’ve convinced people you’re different than what caused the perception to happen and that’s the hurdle that he is challenged with,” said Henry Schafer, executive vice president of Marketing Evaluations, which conducts the Q Scores.

Schafer said that among sports fans age 13 and older who know of LeBron, 19 percent consider him one of their favorite personalities, but 27 percent of those that know him rank him among their least favorite personalities.

“The negative side is where he’s hurting,” Schafer said. “His negative score is almost twice the average.”

On Twitter, Schafer’s sentiment was echoed.

  • Brad (@Texas_Cyn) said LeBron winning a title wouldn’t change his negative opinion of him because he came off as “universally arrogant.” “It was obvious in last year’s Finals press conference how much better he thinks he is than everyone,” he tweeted.
  • Jermaine (@jermaine611) tweeted, “He can win five titles and I wouldn’t like him. Dances, posing and entitlement has turned me off.”
  • Andrew (@AndrewGreth) said LeBron set himself up for more lofty goals that compromises how people should think about his first title.
  • “He said he would win not 4, not 5, not 6,” Greth tweeted. “so one (title) is not backing up bravado.”

In a separate Twitter poll taken at the start of the NBA Finals, I asked my followers what endorser would most get you to buy a product? I gave them Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as choices. Durant got 71.4 percent of the vote, LeBron got 21.3 percent and Wade finished last with 7.3 percent of the vote.

While LeBron is known by 85 percent of the population, Kevin Durant is known by 61 percent of the population, according to the Q Scores. But 23 percent of those that know him call him their favorite athlete, while only 9 percent list him as one of their least favorite athletes.

Questions?  Comments?