Named as one of the key factors for Liverpool to surrender to Nike in their High Court victory over current kit suppliers New Balance, basketball superstar LeBron James is a global sports icon, but how could he use this status to help the Reds build their brand?
While basketball is hugely successful both in James’ native United States and in the Asian market – particularly China – where Liverpool are looking to expand, many UK fans may be unsure of what kind of character. It is.
Arash Markazi is a sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times in the city where James now plies his trade for the Los Angeles Lakers and explains the extent of the player’s status.
He told ECHO: “LeBron James is arguably the biggest sports star we have in America right now.
“People ask who you can compare him to and that’s Michael Jordan. He was the biggest sports celebrity we’ve had in a long time. This is where it is.
“To give you an example, Michael Jordan made the movie [Space Jam] in 1996 and now LeBron is doing the sequel to this film. He’s the closest we’ve had to Jordan.
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For decades, football fans have questioned whether Pelé or Diego Maradona was the greatest player of all time, while now Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have moved the conversation forward.
In basketball, Jordan, the aforementioned Chicago Bulls phenomenon, was considered the most notable individual in the history of the sport, but some now believe the player dubbed “King James” usurped that throne, so where Markazi does he think he stands?
He said: “I think he’s number two on the all-time list and that’s where he will be considered when he retires.
“Jordan had that pristine 6-0 mark in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals. He’s gone to finals six and won all six and it’s going to be tough to beat.
“I think LeBron to his credit did the best he could with the teams he had.
“Aside from the two losses he suffered with the Miami Heat, the losses he suffered with Cleveland were suffered by superior teams, whether it was the Golden State Warriors or the first time he went. in the final, the San Antonio Spurs.
“People ask who the next Jordan is, but for this generation, LeBron is the best and closest we have.
“For me Jordan will always be number one and stay there for the foreseeable future, but that’s no blow to say LeBron is second best behind him.”
How long does James stay at the top? Straight out of high school for the NBA in 2003, he will be 35 on December 30, but Markazi believes he has a few more miles on the clock and potential seasons at the top for Liverpool to make the most of it.
He said: “I think he will play 20 seasons in total, so he still has a few more.
“He still has a few goals that he would like to achieve. His son (LeBron junior, currently 15) is in high school and he often joked that there might be a chance his final season will be his son’s first in the NBA.
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“I don’t think we’ve seen this before where a dad and son play against each other or are even on the same team.
“He is still in incredible shape, in excellent physical condition. He’s a bit like Tom Brady (considered by many to be the greatest American football quarterback of all time who still plays for the New England Patriots at 42 after making his NFL debut in 2000) in that regard. meaning you don’t think he should be as successful as he was at his age, but he is.
James is not only an exceptional athlete and he also maintains a high profile off the pitch.
Markazi said: “His image in terms of marketing is huge. Everything he’s been involved in has gone pretty well.
“He’s got a TV show called ‘The Shop’ and he’s got the biggest names, the biggest celebrities on it. They sit around a barber shop and discuss issues.
“They had the state governor of California there and then they passed a bill to get college players paid.
“Whether it was the popularity of his shoes or the popularity of his jersey, which I believe was number one in sales, everything he touches seems to work well.
“While there are fans of individual teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers or Los Angeles Lakers, there are also specific LeBron James fans who still want to get his stuff.
“He also approaches social issues as if he got involved with Donald Trump tweeting things.
“This is where he and Jordan are different, he goes against the establishment. LeBron admires Muhammad Ali, and he did.
“Whether he opens a school or tweets Trump, he’s telling the truth to power or at least trying to do it.”
- Tomorrow: Part Two – How James recovered from his own PR focus and became a Reds fan.