WWE's Ross Says LeBron Succeeded by Copying Wrestling Playbook

By Cam Martin 

Seems as if the NBA Finals are already over, what with the Heat’s 1-0 lead, Dirk Nowitski’s finger injury, and articles like Harvey Araton’s in The New York Times today, headline: “After Betrayal, James Detractors Brace for a Title.”

Araton of course talks with Esquire scribe Scott Raab, who’s writing a book called “The Whore of Akron” about LeBron James and last summer’s “Decision” to jilt the starcrossed city of Cleveland and take his talents to South Beach. But Araton also spoke with Jim Ross, former wrestling announcer with the WWE, who spoke admirably of how James changed his persona from hero to villain, which Ross seems to think was some well-executed wrestling script.

“After a long, productive tenure as a fan favorite, he changed the story line and the way he did it, by going on ESPN, with Jim Gray as his straight man, was a classic wrestling promotion,” Ross said. “A hero doesn’t brag on his own abilities. It was a self-centered point of view that told his fans, ‘I’ve changed my philosophy.’ ”

Ross, an N.B.A. fan who roots for the Oklahoma City Thunder in his native state, does not think James is a real-life heel. They shared an autograph session during a “Monday Night Raw” event in Cleveland when James was a rookie, and he came away with the impression that James was “a really nice kid, very humble, mature for his age.”

But in the name of show-biz, wrestling heels break rules and often get away with it. James broke Cleveland’s heart and appears to be surmounting that, too. And while it is likely that more or even most fans will root for Miami to lose to Dallas, James has no doubt impressed younger fans with his audacity and defiance. Hence, the surge in his jersey sales.

Really? The reason James’ jersey sells so well is because he was audacious and defiant? That’s dubious. He’s not exactly Tommie Smith or John Carlos. You’re giving kids too much credit for self-reflection. I’m more inclined to think he has high jersey sales for the simple reason that kids watch games, check out the standings, read the stats — but don’t read the critical columns on places like RealClearSports. Little kids don’t buy LeBron’s jersey because he’s a rebel; they buy it because he’s an awesome basketball player.