Remember this embarrassing video? It wasn’t even four years ago when LeBron James graced us with his presence, drawing out “The Decision” via national television, elating Miamians, ripping out the hearts of Clevelanders, and nauseating the rest of America.
In the years that followed, James would reach lows unknown even to him, the hard-luck kid from Akron, Ohio, who would forgo college and go directly to the NBA.
Until that moment, James was seen as the carrier of the NBA superstar torch, handed to him by Kobe, and Michael Jordan before him. His jersey was a best-seller, sneaker sales were skyrocketing, and not one city loved its superstar quite the way Cleveland did.
A team filled with misfits and outcasts became perennial contenders, if only because they had No. 23 facilitating wide-open jumpers and throwing down monstrous dunks. They had fun on the court, won a lot of games, and gave the impression that their superstar 20-something-year-old was having a blast the whole time.
So, what happened next? How did the “next big thing” become a global sports pariah—only to re-launch his brand to the status it is right now?