He might not be as likable as he was before ‘The Decision,’ but LeBron James is the most popular NBA player in the world, with his move to the Miami Heat and winning two championship rings helping solidify him as the face of basketball on a global scale, which also helps sell more jerseys than anyone else.
Derrick Rose might be player for a bigger market team and has some more likability to him at the moment. Kobe Bryant has been at this game longer, winning more NBA titles and working harder to market his image in China, the always-growing and so important market for the league outside the North American continent borders.
But James is the face of the NBA right now, even when it means he’s gathered a lot of haters to the bandwagon over the years, and especially in 2010, when suddenly it became a wrong thing to become a free agent and try and win an NBA championship with a different team, while actually giving up money to do it. If he would have gone to a different team – Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls or a small market franchise, things would have turned out different, and James wouldn’t be only feeling respect for his basketball skills and achievements, but also geniune love.
Some people cringed when James spoke about being just a kid for Ohio as he accepted his second consecutive Finals MVP award. It’s hard hearing things like that from someone who pulls in close to $60 million from his NBA salary and growing endorsement portfolio. But James hasn’t done anything wrong. He has gotten himself into trouble with the law, an while there is a slight flopping issue that he’s been able to erase from his game, he hardly does anything wrong on the court, unlike Kevin Durant, who has grown into something of a frustrated diva last season, picking up technical fouls like he’s the second coming of Rasheed Wallace.
On a basketball, professional level, James finishing number one in global jersey sales means nothing. When it comes to his image and expanding his brand, which also helps on his quest to become recognized by a huge portion of NBA fans and media as the greatest player who ever played the game, this just might another improtant addition to his growing claim, although title rings and more MVP awards will probably be more helpful.