Can Lebron James Repeat the Jordan Miracle?

By Chappell, Kevin | Ebony, January 2004 | Go to article overview

Can Lebron James Repeat the Jordan Miracle?


Chappell, Kevin, Ebony


THEY call him "King James," n 18-year-old basketball phenomenon who, after only playing a handful of games in the NBA, has already become the most talked-about rookie in the history of the league.

In the national spotlight since his junior year at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, LeBron James skipped college and jumped straight to the NBA--becoming the No. 1 draft pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and instantly becoming a sports superstar. He helped to solidify the "LeBronmania" that surrounded his entrance into the league when he scored 25 points in his first game, and came "thisclose" to putting together a triple-double (scoring, rebounding, assists) in his second outing. Every game he has played has been a sellout, with media from around the world documenting his every move. "Sometimes it's hard," James says. "I'm under a super microscope."

That microscope is even more intense with the increased comparisons of James to the legendary Michael Jordan. Sports magazines are calling James "The Chosen One," the player with the greatest chance of becoming the "savior" of the NBA, a league where TV ratings and ticket and merchandising sales have been on a steady decline since Jordan left the Chicago Bulls in 1998.

But can this raw but supertalented youngster repeat the Jordan Miracle? Does he have what it takes to become the best of the best in the NBA, winning championships and individual accolades--while at the same time transcending sports, becoming a media darling, role model and a household name?

Indeed, becoming the next Jordan will not be an easy task. Jordan led the Bulls to six NBA Championships, won a record 10 scoring titles, five regular season Most Valuable Player awards, six NBA Finals MVP awards, three NBA All-Star Game MVP awards, an NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, two Olympic gold medals and an NCAA national championship.

Off the court, Jordan ruled Madison Avenue. In many respects, he became the most recognized face in the world, pitching everything from razor blades to batteries. Advertisers knew that if they could get Jordan to endorse their product, people would buy it. Jordan successfully used his celebrity like no other athlete before him. He starred in movies and had the entire world wanting to "be like Mike."

Can James rise to that level? He wears the same No. 23 that Jordan did. That's a start. He reportedly has Jordan's cell phone number, which gives him immediate access to the game's greatest player.

That's also a good move. And like Jordan, James is media savvy, has an infectious smile, a passion to win, and a flare for the dramatic, never missing a chance to throw down an exciting dunk or make a spectacular pass.

During Jordan's time in the NBA, merchandise sales grew from $44 million to $2 billion, much of it credited to the sale of Jordan-related items. James has already nailed down Jordan-like endorsements, having signed more than $100 million in deals with such companies as Nike and Coca-Cola before he even played his first game. To say James has mass appeal is an understatement. His replica jersey, at $550, has been flying out of stores. The $110 shoes that bear his name are also big sellers.

But while James is a very personable young man, and basketball seems to be second nature for him, most hoop insiders say that he still needs work in most facets of the game, including post-up moves, and free-throw and midrange shooting. …

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