New Ad Gives LeBron James the Classic Nike Treatment


“Should I tell you I am not a role model?” LeBron James asks around the 0:35 mark of his new ad for Nike, following it up with a sly, winking “Hi, Chuck”—a reference, one assumes, to Charles Barkley’s infamous Nike Air commercial that opened with that line.

James is the latest in a long line of pro athletes to get the controversial-Nike-ad treatment: recall Michael Jordan’s “Maybe It’s My Fault” commercial, which featured Jordan shrugging that maybe his critics are right, maybe he shouldn’t have made it seem so easy, maybe he destroyed the game—and ends with the damning indictment, “Or maybe you’re just making excuses.” In a slightly meta turn, James’s ad seems designed to combat the criticism of people just like Barkley and Jordan, along with countless fans, who viewed “The Decision” he made this summer to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat as a betrayal.

James’s ad is self-aware and a little funny—at one point, he muses, “Should I try acting?,” and a ten-second Miami Vice spoof ensues—but the overall tone is serious. James, at least as Nike would have you see him, is a complicated man with some complicated problems, demonized unfairly by those who wrongly believe life is simple. It’s hard not to compare it to another of the company’s recent ads featuring a man many former fans view as a fallen hero.

Morally ambiguous and beautifully shot, both James’s and Woods’s ads are meant to provoke viewers who would simply label their stars “villains” and leave it at that. (Woods’s, which features the voice of his deceased father, especially drew ire from those who believed it was inappropriate.) Are they art? It’s debatable. But if the purpose an ad serves is simply to keep the company’s name on America’s lips—Nike does it better than anyone.

[James ad via People]