It's ironic Nike once bestowed the "Witnesses" tagline on their LeBron James' campaign, because that's all people have done for the past week since he announced he was taking his talents back to the shores of Lake Erie — we have watched the grandeur.
Namely, the PR people in the audience, because if this doesn't become a case study in crisis communications, and how it's never too late to do the right thing, nothing really will. "King" James was vilified in his own kingdom of Cleveland. Burning of his jerseys. Nastygrams in the news. A real sacking of his land. Basketball hated the guy, and why? Because he turned his back on his hometown to go win a ring.
You know, like the rest of the selfish folks in the NBA. Only when LeBron did it, no one forgave him for it. For four years, he goes to the NBA finals leading the Miami Heat. Every year. He even won two (and lost one against my Dallas Mavericks, so what's up). NBA free agency is a great time of the year for sport. This year, it became a great one for PR. In a masterful letter to Sports Illustrated, we all read a concise novel in retrospect and hindsight. His mea culpa was the delicate work of an army of flacks that created a letter of love. And it worked, too.
The headline was "I'm Coming Home."
The choice of those three words alone shows this was more than an announcement (or another ridiculous "decision" from ESPN); this was a public relations reckoning. He says "I'm not having a press conference or a party. It's time to get to work." And why not? This letter has already laid the foundation for the reconstruction of his tattered image. He made nice with Cavaliers' Owner Dan Snyder. He fell on his diamond-encrusted sword for the city. And he was even magnanimous about it. The way someone of royalty would never act. Humility to face them again. Grace to accept the thrashing he still deserves. Honor to thank them for it. Transparency to let them know it hurt when he made his decision. And morality to say, "Okay. We done? I have a job to do."
That is all work of PR. That is all work of crisis communications. That was all work of LeBron James with his choice (I hate the word "decision" now) to leave South Beach and go back home.
The guy has proclaimed his kingdom once again. He has slayed that dragon haunting him in his dreams. He has decided that his legacy is much more important than his selfish whims. He is the personification of why crisis communications strategies work — not one, not two, not three, not four, not five times, but every time.
Way to go, PR people. You know who you are.