All of Miami, or so it would seem, follows LeBron James around as he bikes, jogs, swims and plays pickup basketball in "Training Day," a new Nike spot from Wieden + Kennedy that promotes the LeBron 11 sneaker and debuts as the four-time MVP begins his 11th NBA season. "The message is obvious," James tells the AP. "I want people to feel like they're at one with me, and I had a lot of fun shooting it all over Miami, and to have all those kids, it was great."
The 90-second video accomplishes that mission, and benefits from the inclusion of "My Shoes," a mellow yet upbeat John Legend track, produced by Mike WiLL Made It, that has yet to be officially released. The clip generates an epic feel-good aura—like a trailer for a hoop-themed Disney blockbuster—but also seems kind of intimate despite the large cast of extras and busy visuals. What's more, it reflects our relationship to modern-day heroes and speaks to the place of big-time sports and superstar athletes in a media-saturated world.
Throughout the film, fans pursue their idol, just to say hello, wish him well and, by association, share in his greatness for a while. James doesn't try to avoid them. He's comfortable with the adoration and happy they're along for the ride. Even so, the fans are left waiting outside when he gets to the gym for an intense solo practice session, and again at the finale, as he vanishes behind the gates of his swanky home, calling back, "See you guys tomorrow." It's telling that at these two key moments, when, in a sense, James is most uniquely himself, he's alone, going places where his fans can't follow.
That's basically how it's always been between heroes and admirers, and the dynamic remains unchanged—perhaps it has even intensified—in our always-on, multiscreen age, where we demand that our superstars interact with the masses more than ever. A little space is healthy for both sides, and separation balances the equation.
When we get too close to our heroes, they can lose their glow. We come to realize they're just like us: ordinary folks, highly imperfect, even if they are blessed with high-priced skill-sets and all the accoutrements of fame—fast cars, fabulous friends, fancy homes. Familiarity, as they say, breeds contempt. It's best not to know them too well. I find it reassuring when they lock the gates and remain a tad aloof. It makes them seem just a little bit better than the rest of us. And hopefully our presence in their lives, even pedaling in their wake or looking from the outside in, reminds them what the hard work and sacrifice, beyond the paydays, is all about.