LeBron James had a brief Twitter exchange with Slam Magazine recently, going back and forth with the esteemed, cooler-than-thou hoops publication using the phrase "Just Cause" (or "Just Cuz") over nostalgia shots of The King back in the day.
The exchange (RT'ed by LeBron) was abbreviated, but telling. It was a quick trip down memory lane for James, with commenters chirping in about the GOAT as "just a kid" (get it?) or remarking in amazement about the then-hirsute hero ("look, he had hair!") The tweets allowed for some shared moments of nostalgia between James and his fans, but more than that, it showed that LBJ's Weltanschauung takes the whole journey, as well as its accompanying side roads, into account. A perspective that might be the secret to his astounding success.
For, just as LeBron is known for his incredible court vision, having been labeled one of the original "point forwards" in the game -- that is, a player who runs the offense like a deft point guard even though he has the size and strength to play much closer to the basket -- he's also capable of processing a 360-degree view of his career itself, devoting equal attention to his work, his life and his secondary, and even tertiary, business pursuits.
At the very least, this type of complex, diversified approach helps make James one of the top members of the elite professional-athlete-as-brand club, probably only currently rivaled worldwide by the likes of Roger Federer (top athlete as brand in 2016 according to Forbes), Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Tom Brady (with Tiger Woods before them, and Steph Curry and Neymar leading the charge in the new school).
As with all good brand builders, though, it's tough to piegonhole James as "just an athlete." His approach to social media and P.R. is more akin to the likes of a cutting-edge tech entrepreneur (an Elon Musk, perhaps) or a culture-defining entertainer (think: Drake or Kanye) rather than one his fellow professional ball-players whose only side-pursuits involve lifting weights and cooling down in ice baths.
In fact, dive into James' Twitter account of late, as well as the social coverage of him, and you'll find a sports star who comes across as a shrewd but hip businessman who was dropped somewhat suddenly into the skin of a professional athlete. In one instance, LeBron's tweeting about the successful new game show he executive-produced for NBC. In another, he's breathing life into his charitable endeavors. Elsewhere he's seen stoically, if not menacingly, reading "The Godfather" in the tunnel moments before facing the rival Celtics. (Even his basketball moments aren't about basketball.)
And naturally, he's also seen gazing back at his roots, letting his fans know that the journey starts with the smallest of moments. But can ultimately blossom into something massive.
With every step, James is preaching to his followers that it's OK to expand your offering once you've got the broad shoulders and bandwidth to do so. And also that game never rests. Innovation is tireless. And a balance between home and family (where you're from) is just as important as work and execution (where you're at).
A philosophy that reads like pages ripped from The Godfather.