Two plus two is four. The earth goes around the sun. LeBron James is a jerk who should die in a fire.
There are few things universally acknowledged by humanity, but those three are pretty solid. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, the country seems to be divided into Miami Heat fans and everyone else.
LeBron refers to himself as “King James,” made an ESPN special to announce his decision to play for Miami, and promised a minimum of eight championships to Heat fans. So it’s easy to see why everyone is ignoring his previously spotless public relations record to rake the guy over the coals.
But I’d hire him in a heartbeat.
1) He’s really good at a very specialized job.
Like all sports, basketball is a business. Passion for the game and winning underdog stories are great for the final act in sports movies, but people are paid on a butts-in-seats basis. Season ticket sales, merchandise, and concessions are all tied to that.
- James’s job: play basketball well
- Not James’s job: be nice, not say stupid things
On the business end, basketball players are a marketing tool. Their basketball skills or headline-grabbing behavior (I’m looking at you, Dennis Rodman) put more butts in seats, which gets everyone paid.
How much exactly?
The investment of $16.6 million in James’s salary for the 2010 season gave the Miami Heat quite the payoff:
Winning the LeBron James sweepstakes following the 2009-10 season has added roughly $60 million to the value of the Miami Heat because of the additional ticket, sponsorship and concession revenue that will flow into American Airlines Arena to see the King.
If I’m hiring for an extraordinarily selective profession (only 432 NBA players in 2012), I need the best with that focused skill set, because they will be in direct competition with the best. Unless the feel-good character traits affect his jump shot, it doesn’t matter to me how often he saves kittens from trees.
Bottom line: if there are very few people capable of performing a specific job without which your business cannot function, hiring should be focused on the ability to complete that job rather than whether or not you’d set them up with your daughter.
2) He stuck with Cleveland for 7 years.
One of the biggest criticisms of LeBron James is that he abandoned Cleveland for a ring.
The U.S. Department of Labor released statistics in 2010 that stated the median amount of time wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.4 years. James stayed with the Cleveland Cavaliers for over 7 years, which means that, statistically, he stuck by his employer longer than you have.
But aren’t sports stars held to a higher standard? After all, fans get emotionally invested in their favorite players. That might be valid if James didn’t spend triple the average time an NBA player spends with a single team on the Cavaliers: the average is 2.2 seasons.
Although people are not enjoying quite as much flexibility in changing positions as they did when the economy wasn’t looking like Derek Rose’s ACL, there are still plenty of reasons why someone would leave a company that wasn’t giving them what they needed to thrive professionally. With James raking in more money than he could (probably) spend, cash was unlikely a motivator. He wanted a championship ring, and after seven years of trying to build a team, he didn’t see a way to get one with the Cavaliers.
Bottom line: James showed loyalty to his previous team beyond the average in his industry. However, he was also focused on his own goals and was able to identify others in his industry who felt the same, teaming up to create a solid advantage for his new employer over the others in the industry. It’s easier to keep someone motivated if they have their own personal goals and see your company as a vehicle to meet those goals rather than convincing them to get onboard with the company’s goals.
3) He could be worse.
At least he didn’t murder dogs on a weekly basis and defend it as “people trying to make some money.” There’s no way he’d be welcomed back into a professional sports organization with a Comeback Player of the Year Award and millions of dollars in endorsement deals. That would be crazy!
What do you think about LeBron James as a basketball player? Can that be separated from LeBron James as a person? Should it be? How much are you willing to put up with from your top talent? Should they be treated differently if they’re in high enough demand? Sound off in the comments below!
Until next time, keep expanding your brand!