LeBron James and the Psychology of Media and Information

No matter how sick anyone is right now of hearing about LeBron James and the speculation of what he’s going to do next month, it’s hard to overlook that from a certain perspective the many different levels of this story are endlessly fascinating. Some day a book will probably be written, not about LeBron’s decision, but the way this “quiet” period has been covered and the reaction of NBA fans and media analysts across the country have reacted to it.

There seem to be no shortage of opinions on what LeBron should or should not be doing and what the right way to handle his free agency should be. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been turned off by much of what I’ve observed in the time since the Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs. Yet here we are, the NBA Finals aren’t even over yet, and already we’re wish we could be done with talking about free agency. Of course, the crux of the issue is that free agency hasn’t even started yet.  

“Game 5” is probably something that will never go away in the hearts and minds of Cleveland fans unless LeBron comes back and leads the Cavaliers to a Championship to atone for letting the Cavaliers faithful down, at least from their perspective. So as it stands, “Game 5” seems to cast a shadow over everything that has been happening.

All season long the majority fans were calling for Mike Brown’s head and the general consensus was that Coach Brown couldn’t get the job done. Regardless of how much blame should fall at his feet, the fact is that the Cavaliers didn’t get the job done, and Mike Brown paid the price. Suddenly, though, a funny thing happened and people blamed LeBron for Coach Brown’s departure and there seemed to be anger and frustration directed at LeBron for it.

Danny Ferry was a slightly different story, as he has started to actually redeem himself to many Cavs fans with his endless attempts at making moves to help load the Cavaliers roster. Still, every time we posted an article praising Ferry, it was surely met with plenty of dissenting opinions in the comments. Yet when Dan Gilbert chose not to bring Ferry back as GM, fans once again laid blame for this on LeBron. Even when it came out that what actually happened was that Ferry wanted complete control of the team, including naming the next coach, and Gilbert wasn’t willing to go that far, this was still somehow used as an example of LeBron’s overreaching control over the franchise.

When Tom Izzo decided to stay at Michigan State, a big part of the reason was because LeBron wasn’t willing to talk to him. Fans weren’t the only ones disappointed with the way that process played out. I certainly vented my frustration over it, and we’ve seen some members of the media begin to turn on LeBron as well.

Some are more subtle than others, of course, but even some members of the media closest to LeBron are publicly speaking out against him. Buzz Bissinger, co-author of the LeBron autobiography “Shooting Stars”, absolutely went off on LeBron via Twitter last night:

So Izzo, as possible Cavs coach wants to meet with LeBron and he says no?? I’ve had it. F— that. F— him. Hurts to say but I got played.

LeBron has obligation to meet with Izzo, even if it’s to flip him the bird. Why would Cleveland even want to keep a man as self-absorbed…

every move LeBron makes an orchestrated one. Forget what he says about anything–policy of appeasement. Hence Izzo BS: 100 percent no prob

I hope LeBron goes to Charlotte so ultimate psychotic Jordan can cut him and LeBron plays year in junior Canadian Curling…

Never seen such arrogance in pro athlete–player won’t meet with possible coach? LeBron getting terrible advice. So f—ing disappointed.

One thing about Shooting Stars book–people in it besides LeBron great decent people. No better man/coach than Dru Joyce. Great teammates

It’s stunning to read a reaction like that from someone who once had a working relationship with LeBron. You expect strong reactions from those of us who are ignorant about the real LeBron James, but to see it from someone who actually knows him lends credibility to the growing Anti-LeBron sentiment in Cleveland.

Of course, the funny thing is that all of this anger is being directed at LeBron, and most us feel like we’re sick of LeBron when LeBron himself hasn’t said anything other than a brief Larry King interview. The media circus is driven by blogs like this one and mainstream media who feel an obligation to write about the game’s biggest star.

Going back full circle to the Izzo situation, this is very similar to the showdown Tom Izzo had with a reporter at his press conference the other day. The site Sparty and Friends has video of the confrontation, and it’s interesting to watch it in the context of LeBron James. By that, I don’t mean the fact that LeBron wouldn’t talk to Izzo, but more about how similar Izzo’s frustration might be to any frustration LeBron might feel. Just as Izzo made the point that he wasn’t the one driving the circus because he wasn’t saying anything at all, so too could LeBron say pretty much the same thing.

Where this issue becomes dicey, though, is when you consider the point that Lynn Henning was trying (unsuccessfully) to make, that the story is going to drive itself based solely on how high the profile of people like Tom Izzo and LeBron James is. And this is what is important to understand. While Izzo and LeBron may feel like they’re not the ones making the media coverage out of control since they’re not the ones talking, the truth is that it is their silence that allows the coverage to get out of control.

If LeBron were to actually be a little more vocal and upfront about what he wants and what he’s thinking, similar to the way Dwyane Wade has been, then the story would be more controlled and isolated. Writers would be breaking down and discussing the quotes provided by LeBron rather than running with rampant rumors and speculation.

If LeBron James is losing his fans in Cleveland, he certainly deserves some of the blame. Some of it is just the nature of the game. Nobody is loved universally, and you can’t look at situations like this in a vacuum. Life is rarely black and white, but instead is generally in a persistent state of grey, although the shades of grey often change. Some fans are bracing themselves for what they feel is the inevitable, some are just trying to be cautious pessimists in case LeBron actually does leave, some are genuinely angry with “Game 5”, and some are just tired of all the media coverage.

These things change all the time, and so do feelings. It’s important to always maintain perspective, although admittedly sometimes perspective is difficult to track down. I know I’ve had my fair share of moments throughout this process where I have lost a little perspective on it, and I’m sure it will happen again before LeBron signs a new contract anywhere.

So I wanted to leave you guys with this. No matter where you fall on this spectrum and how you feel about LeBron James right now, our own TD gave us wise words the other day when he wrote about the Lynn Henning article:

To those of you, Lynn Henning included, who think that Izzo should just move on at this point, be very careful what you wish for. Tom Izzo IS Michigan State basketball. If you think Brian Gregory is going to come over from Dayton and go to six Final Fours in twelve years and win a national title, then you are fooling yourself.

To paraphrase it into our terms:

“To those of you, myself included, who have found themselves feeling frustrated with LeBron James and the way he has handled this quiet period in free agency, be very careful what you wish for.”

LeBron James is Cavalier basketball right now and there is still a very good chance he is going to stay in Cleveland. If that happens, do we want to be bitter and distant toward the Cavaliers just because of the way this story has been covered, or do we want to pick up right where we left off and take care of unfinished business?

_____

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Matt#2

    Stinkfist

    Someone made bagels an issue.

  • Stinkfist

    God, I remember that article. It was one of the worst pieces of journalism I have ever read.

  • mgbode

    2 things:

    1. “you all beg for that innocent 18 year old you signed years ago”

    LeBron as an ‘innocent’ 18 year old? I have a tough time believing an 18 year old with a $100 mil Nike contract is ‘innocent’

    2. it wasn’t just bagels. it was bagels and pizza.
    and don’t forget that Chris Rock has since mentioned that Cleveland ‘sucks’ which is sure to sway LeBron’s decision.

    That and I think Rosie Perez plans on teaching him foods that begin with ‘Q’ which we all know is an invaluable skill (quail, quiche, quesadilla, queso, quince, ???)

  • Matt#2

    Quinoa

  • alan t.

    #43, so what. If Allen or Redd really wanted to come to Cleveland, then they could have had their agents arrange a sign-and-trade on a max deal, just like Rashard Lewis did. But even though Cleveland had LeBron James, they STILL didn’t want to come. That’s how toxic Cleveland is. Even a guy born and raised in Columbus wants absolutely no part of it.

  • mgbode

    Quinoa = good one.

    Does Quizno’s count?

  • mgbode

    @55 – as if the Bucks were going to gift-wrap their best player to the Cavs and kill their attendance. also, who from the Cavs at that time would the Bucks have been willing to take back to make it worthwhile for them?

    sign-n-trades don’t happen that often because they are tough to make 3 parties happy at the same time(old team, new team, player).

  • Matt#2

    alan t.

    Does Allen or Redd not “really” wanting to come to Cleveland signify to you that Cleveland is “toxic”?

    That seems imbalanced to me.

  • Matt#2

    mgbode

    I thought of Quiznos right after I hit submit.

    And then…

    THEN!

    I thought of…

    Quarter Pounder.

  • Gordo

    #57 … you’re spot on. sign/trades are really tough from both an asset (player) and salary perspective. allen and redd didn’t sign w/ cleveland b/c of money. period. #43 / 55 is way off.

  • mgbode

    ok, broke down and looked more up:

    quark (soft cheese)
    quahog (clam)
    quinine (tonic water flavoring)
    quisp (type of cereal)
    Quiddany (jelly though may be duplicate to quince then)
    Quinnat (salmon)
    Quamash (herb)
    Quandang (australian berry)
    Queenfish
    Queen Olive

  • mgbode

    I don’t think Quiznos should count since then you have to look at all brands (like Quaker Oats).

    But, how did I forget Quarter Pounder? I just am ashamed with myself now.

  • mgbode

    Ok, we are at 16 (not counting Quiznos, Quaker Oats, or Quiddany as I think that is just a form of Quince)

    TAKE THAT ROSIE PEREZ!

  • Rich

    #48, like most fans, you play the care about us card. However, since when do fans show the care towards player that we so desperately want them to show us? I know I don’t. I’m always screaming and yelling for this guy to be traded and that guy to be fired. So, why should players treat us any differently?

  • mgbode

    @64 – stay on topic. what does that have anything to do with Rosie Perez or Quince?

  • Matt#2

    mgbode
    did you look at a dictionary under Q?

  • mgbode

    the wonderful thing about the WWW is that there are actually plenty of websites that dedicate themselves to answering crazy questions from movies.

    that list is a collection of a few different of those sites. WFNY is now THE authority of foods that begin with the letter q.

    (I do what I can to contribute to the greater good here)

  • Sar

    What about the fact that maybe Lebron is trying to make this a lot bigger so that if he decides to re-sign with the Cavs he is looked at as the hero and there are parties in the streets of akron and Cleveland. Part of me thinks he is so not sure what to do that he is listening to people who are telling him what to do. I don’t understand what happened to him from the time of the MVP love fest in Akron to now? He seemed so happy there with everyone and wanted to win so bad and then the day after that game 2 I believe he was a completely different person. It’s hard for me to believe that he just gave up…it’s just so weird.

  • Turk

    Wow, devolving into quoting Buzz Bissinger as a sign of what’s really important. This is ridiculous.

  • bugsmm

    Will he or won’t he? I’m getting increasingly nauseated by the persistence of the question. After watching two teams with nothing left slug it out in a Game 7 (112 games played total), “Game 5″ reveals the Cavaliers truly had no right to be in the Championship conversation.

    Lebron did state his intentions after the 3 year deal was inked. Yes, he has been coy after the travesty that was the Boston series, but I do not think he has decided what to do. I believe part of him is geographically loyal, but that innocent 18 year old also tooled around in a Hummer!

    The Lakers are ridiculously deep; Jerry Buss has been at this for awhile. Using the Spurs as the model poorly conceived; they were simply the team of the moment to fill the void after Shaq left LA. The Cavaliers simply do not have the players to compete out to a potential 112 game season; 82-96 or so is more likely.

    IF he stays that roster is an issue, even more so if he does not. No draft picks, no FA compensation. Regardless of where the blame lies (owner, GM, Lebron), this team is already at least a year behind the league’s elite.

  • j ludwig

    Bron is what he is… a 25 year old ultra talented KID. His talent allows him to excell on the court but does nothing for him otherwise. For an area such as my beloved homeland to hold its collective breath for the decision of a 25 year old KID is instructive. Really. He plays a GAME. Its for FUN. Do you think Bron has any idea how he affects those around him? Please. This is especially true when he surrounds himself with other 25 YEAR OLD KIDS and egotistical greedy old men who can’t see beyond their own pockets. If its really all about WINNING for Bronny then here’s a new flash. IT TAKES COMMITMENT to WIN. Not just commitment to YOUR game but committment to your TEAM. If you watched the NBA Finals you should know TEAMS win championships. The only way Bron is going to get a team around him IS TO commit to a team. And if you think you can hand pick a winning team. Good luck little boy. Life doesn’t work that way. To win championships a team needs to grow together and need to peak at the right time. But such a concept is so difficult to understand as a child when you want everything NOW. Please Cleveland don’t be frustrated with your favorite son. Just understand that he’s just that, a boy, granted a very talented and spoiled boy but a boy nonetheless

  • Matt#2

    j ludwig

    “KID”? Spoiled? What do you know?