Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

3 Reasons I Would Hire LeBron James

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.

If sports is a business, this is probably lawsuit material.

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.

By Randall Monroe, copyright xkcd

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.

Just give me another seven years, and I promise you’ll get a ring!

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.

It's too bad things didn't work out. I really just can't live in freaking Ohio anymore.

Make sure you check out my special on C-SPAN, where I promise my new employer I will be on time not once, not twice…

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!

Michael Vick image credit to Matthew Straubmuller


Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on


  1. Eric

    7 years with the Cavs. Hard to believe he stuck it out that long, and – like you said – that’s far longer (almost double) than the average person will spend at his or her job. Have to give the guy something for that. Moral compass? Maybe not, but he’s damn good at basketball. Great post, Jana!

    • Jeff Porretto

      We’re hard on LeBron because he should be compared to legends (he’s as skilled as any of them), not the average journeyman. The most beloved players in history stuck with their team through thick and thin, not bolt when another (easier) opportunity came around.

      MJ – 13 years with the Bulls
      John Elway – 16 years with the Broncos
      Peyton Manning – 13 years with the Colts
      Patrick Ewing – 17 years with the Knicks

      7 looks pretty meek compared to them.

  2. Jay

    I agree on all fronts. Not a fan of him as a person (ESPECIALLY his designer at Nike, Jason Petrie), BUT….. he’s the best player in the league, hands down.

    (Sorry Kobe!)

    • Jana Quinn

      With such rare talent, sometimes accommodations need to be made in order to keep that commodity on your team. It’s not fair to people with mature social communication skills, but if that’s what’s required to turn a profit, it’s an unfortunate reality.

  3. Jeff Porretto

    No one is saying they wouldn’t want him on their team, or that he’s a terrible human being. I’d still pay him to dunk on people all day. It’s just that he has chronic foot in mouth disease, and it makes him utterly unlikable.

    “I got a goal, and it’s a huge goal, and that’s to bring an NBA championship here to Cleveland,” James said. “And I won’t stop until I get it.”

    “At the end of the day, all the people that’s rooting on me to fail, they gotta wake up to the same life they had before they woke up today.”

    And pretty much everything here:

    But you’re 100% right, Vick can go **** himself.

    • Jana Quinn

      Yeah, he definitely shouldn’t have promised not to leave Cleveland until there was a championship, but could he have if he stayed for 10 years? 15? Were they ever going to be able to afford to bring in enough firepower to create a championship winning team?

      The second one definitely got the most heat in the press, and I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he was just talking about how criticizing someone does nothing to make your own life better, but at worst, his comments are nothing compared to the anonymous Internet Tough Guys that are name-calling and such. Blech. Again, not his job to be a good guy in the press.

      • Jeff Porretto

        Cleveland finished with the best record in the league every year but failed in the playoffs time and time again. So it REALLY came across as him trying to take the easy way out, which of course gets crucified in the media.

        I understand WHY he left to team up with some of the best players in the league. I don’t agree with the decision (ha!), but it is what it is.

        • Alex Brodsky

          Ben Roethlisberger is right up there with Vick too! Those two shouldn’t be welcomed in any stadium they go to.

          Neither one of those guys will EVER have a roster spot on my Fantasy teams.

  4. Kelsey

    I will be perfectly honest when I say that I know nothing about sports, and pretty much nothing about him. I do agree with you that his job is to play basketball, but I feel like if you’re playing a professional sport, you should also know that people are looking up to you and you need to be a role model also. You do make great points though, Jana! He does what he came to do, and he does it well. Nice post! 🙂

    • Jana Quinn

      I agree that those in the public eye should definitely be aware of the fact that they are setting an example to those who look up to them, especially professional athletes who are often idolized by children. However, is it their actual responsibility to behave in a certain way? Depends on their contract. It certainly makes that person a better contributor to society, but it may not necessarily be a requirement to keep the job. “The Decision” did raise $2 million for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

  5. amy

    Superb “SPORTS” post, Jana! I know of Lebron, but only because everyone freaked out when he went to Miami. With that being said, I loved this blog you wrote! When basketball season starts up I can at least throw in something to the conversation now instead of smiling like an idiot and nodding my head, haha!

  6. Mandy Kilinskis


    But everything you said it absolutely right. LeBron might be a total jerk, but from what I know, he’s a good basketball player. And when it comes down to making money, you’ve got to hire the people that will make it happen.

    Excellent post, Jana. Way to stir up the controversy in the comments! 😉

    • Jana Quinn

      Even if he’s a total jerk in person (and I have absolutely zero information either way), it just depends on what level of jerkiness he can have while still being able to function as part of a team. Apparently, he hasn’t reached that threshold yet, but it will be interesting to see how his career and public profile develop.

  7. Bret Bonnet

    I’d never hire Lebron James because he always chokes under pressure.

    • Jana Quinn

      Zing! That’s another piece of the hiring process, though: putting someone who will often be in a tight situation under pressure to see how they would do. It’s probably not necessary for most jobs, but certainly basketball players, EMTs, stage actors, and other professions that require quick, decisive, autonomous action should have some kind of dynamic “audition.”

  8. Jill Tooley

    James’s job: play basketball well
    Not James’s job: be nice, not say stupid things

    Well said on all counts, Jana! LeBron may be an arrogant person, but he sure knows how to play basketball. We can’t expect everyone on the planet to be humble, kind, intelligent, philanthropic, and practically perfect in every way like Ryan Gosling. 😉

    Good comparison on the Dennis Rodman front, too. Many of LeBron’s comments remind me of things Rodman said back in the 90s when the Bulls were super popular. People either loved him or loved to hate him…but man, did he get his job done right!

    • Jana Quinn

      Yeah, Rodman definitely did his job and was an attention monger, to boot. I don’t think he got nearly the flack James is getting, though.

Leave a Comment

Copyright 2003 - 2019 Quality Logo Products, Inc., Registration No. TX7-524-201. All Rights Reserved.