Miami Heat All-Star forward LeBron James has been all over the media the past few days.
From his exclusive All-Star interview with Steve Smith for NBA TV to his recent comments regarding his basketball Mt. Rushmore, if you’re reading sports news, you’re likely to hear about something that he said to someone.
Early Wednesday, ESPN Dallas writer Calvin Watkins and fellow ESPN writer Michael Wallace put together an article detailing a conversation between James and perennial media pariah and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
Romo offered LeBron some encouraging words and, in turn, the four-time NBA MVP offered him some words of advice.
ESPN SportsCenter anchor and Outside The Lines host Bob Ley seemed to take offense at the advice James was dishing out.
Help me here, @KingJames. “Don’t watch ESPN.” – except when you’re the focus of a 1 hr show annoucing your free agent destination?
— Bob Ley (@BobLeyESPN) February 19, 2014
It’s funny that Ley seems to be taking offense, as if James were attacking him personally—after all, Ley (along with Chris Berman) is one of the longest tenured employees with the sports media giant.
For context, though, it is only fair that we look at the advice that LeBron was giving Romo.
Just don’t care what everybody thinks. If you care about your craft and at the end of the day if you went out there and you gave it everything you had and you laid it out on the line for your teammates, you can sleep comfortably at night. Don’t watch ESPN and all these so-called ‘everyone knows what to do that ain’t never put on a uniform, trying to tell you what to do’ [shows].”
It’s pretty clear that James is telling Romo to tune out all of the cynics, the talking heads and the critics. It’s both simple and understandable advice.
Oddly enough, during those Finals, another often criticized NFL quarterback offered similar advice for LeBron. New York Giants QB Eli Manning visited with ESPN and gave his words of wisdom to James on the Mike and Mike in the Morning Show.
You can see that with LeBron and what’s going on in the NBA Finals, you lose one game, they are all over. They win the second game, everybody loves him. Each week, depending (on) every game, you are either the best or you are terrible. It is so extreme.”
“The most important thing you can do is concentrate on being prepared for each game, being mentally strong, having the confidence in yourself that you are going to go out there and make all the plays, and when you are put in that position, you try to do it.”
The tactic seemed to work wonders for James on the run up to his first championship with the Heat in 2012.
After a year of being blasted by the media for The Decision—add to that the backlash for falling short in the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, he had to take time off and rediscover himself.
Coming back the following year, he decided to play basketball his way and to have fun. During the playoffs, he completely tuned out the media and started reading books. He was at peace and able to play free. As memory serves, he won the NBA Finals in five games and earned the Finals MVP award while playing against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It doesn’t seem fair to ridicule James for advising someone to tune out the media just because he mentions your network by name.
Sure, he may have made a mistake in broadcasting his decision on ESPN and making a public spectacle of it, but he was young and has since owned his mistakes. It is not as if he hasn’t already endured enough public scrutiny for it.
Conversely, it seems sadly ironic that Ley is crying foul as if his network did not benefit from the media circus surrounding The Decision. ESPN’s hour-long program garnered a lot of publicity—registering a 7.3 Nielson rating and generating $6 million in advertising revenue.
For some perspective, it is sincerely doubtful that any of the people at the Boys & Girls Club of America—nor any of the kids who make up its membership—regret that decision after it netted them $2 million in proceeds from corporate sponsors like vitaminwater and Nike.
Perhaps when Bob Ley makes a mistake that nets his favorite charity millions of dollars his tweet may hold more water. For now, it just seems like bitter salt.
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