Wednesday, November 01, 2006

LeBron James = Sascha Baron Cohen
A.K.A. "The 'Bron-Bron/Borat Theory"

Have you seen the new ad campaign for LeBron James' new shoes? Cripes, how could you have missed it? And it's been launched for about 2 seconds. A slick TV ad campaign, online ads everywhere. (And, if you don't get tired of it, it's extremely well done.)

Most notably, the LeBron ad campaign going to take over tonight's 6 p.m. SportsCenter: Every ad on the show will be for the new shoes; it's unprecedented on the network.

(There was a rumor that LeBron himself will make cameos throughout the show as the various characters he plays in the ad campaign. ESPN denies that level of advertorial will be happening, however.)

If you've seen the TV ads (or remember from last year), you know what I'm talking about when I reference his "characters": Nike has created 3 LeBron alter-egos -- sides of his personality, I think is what they're supposed to represent.

Then I had an epiphany:

With the hysteria over the new "Borat" movie and the hysteria over "LeBron" dove-tailing at virtually the same (pop-)cultural moment, I realized that Sascha Baron Cohen is the LeBron James of comedy. Or perhaps vice versa. Both have genius-level ability in their respective fields.

But look one level deeper: The similarities between their alter-ego characters/archetypes is striking:

(1) "The Jabbering Fool"
LBJ: "Wise LeBron"
SBC: "Ali G"

"Wise LeBron" -- LeBron's most popular character is made up to look like a gray-bearded senior -- is supposed to represent LeBron's commitment to the "old school." (Watching the ads, he delivers subtly gifted physical comedy in an impression of how aging players move their bodies.) In one edition of the new TV ad campaign, "Wise" comments on a dunk: "Ain't been nothing good like that since 'Sanford and Son.'" He is a constant, chattering, trash-talking presence, yet ironically laced with mockery toward old-school values.

"Ali G" is Cohen's flagship character (at least he WAS, until Borat Mania hit). He is a hip-hop wannabe, with all of that archetype's professed interest in "keeping it real." If "Wise LeBron" is supposed to be an O.G., Ali G is supposed to represent the younger generation's adulterated attempt to emulate and honor the old school. It's all captured in his not-quite-right catch-phrase: "Respeck."

(2) "The Effete Aesthete"
LBJ: "Business LeBron"
SBC: "Bruno"

"Business LeBron" is the most fascinating of LeBron's alter egos: Nattily and proudly dressed in European-style suits, he speaks in a high, soft -- and intentionally effeminate? -- whisper. He is constantly on the cell phone (Doing deals? Wooing sexual partners across the spectrum?) and seems to disdain his fellow LeBrons. After losing a dunk contest to "Athletic LeBron," he complains, "Dunk contests are bourgeois." Representative of the superficiality of athletic culture, he intentionally sets himself apart from the other LeBrons.

"Bruno" is an Austrian fashion reporter, created to prod Americans' fears and hostilities toward (a) Europeans and (b) gay people. Similarly to "Business LeBron," he has an accent affected to play up his effeminate side. He is an outsider, attempting to expose or highlight the superficiality of U.S. culture. (Bruno is also scheduled to be Cohen's next movie; he just sold the distribution rights for $50 million.)

(3) "The Mischievous Naif"
LBJ: "Kid LeBron"
SBC: "Borat"

"Kid LeBron" is sort of strange to look at. It's LeBron's head on what appears to be a CGI mash-up with a kid's body. (In the linked clip, "Kid" seems to have perhaps been inspired by Lily Tomlin's Emily Ann on Sesame Street.) "Kid" is presumably supposed to embody LeBron's playful side – the arrested development that comes with being a "prep-to-pro" player and, despite his best-in-league talent, his continuing status as one of the NBA's youngest players.

"Borat" is similarly intellectually stunted or underdeveloped – but because of his cultural ignorance, rather than because of his age. The character is able to endear himself to so many of the people he meets precisely because of the perception (or projection) of his child-like innocence. Those who end up mocked don't see it coming; they are taken in by Borat's naive charm.

Update: Brian from YAY!Sports smartly noted one more fascinating similarity that I overlooked, but shouldn't have: Both LeBron and Cohen are extremely guarded about their real personalities are like. And thus the characters...

There you have it. Ah, in my previous life, this would have made a hell of a fun analysis for Page 2. My consolation: I can make truthful pronouncements like "Both LeBron and Sascha Baron Cohen are f'ing geniuses."

-- D.S.


TJ said...

The genius of the LeBron ads can be summed up in the close-up of Business has he tucks his legs up to his head on his high-dive.

Also, the 2-on-2 spot is awesome. LeBron's comedy in that spot is better than his work in the other spots combined. "Foul!"

Gary said...

I guess these are reasons I don't get HBO because I know I'd be doing the exact same I strongly dislike the LeBrons commercial

Unknown said...

a quote from Sports Guy's Quad-A/NLCS Running Diary:

6:34 -- Our first "Borat" ad. That movie is like LeBron back in 2003 or Greg Oden right now -- just a sure thing coming out of the gate. I only wish Chad Ford reviewed movies: "Borat has an almost freakish comedic upside!"

Elliott said...

Wow that was the most pointless thing I've ever seen. Knock it off Dan, you don't write for ESPN anymore.

Anonymous said...

The interesting thing about the "LeBrons" ad campaign as a whole is that it's really hard to pinpoint what the ad is actually SELLING. It could be shoes. It could be headbands. It could be shorts, jerseys, all the nike gear present (basketball? Has anyone noticed if the actual ball has a swoosh?), but doesn't it seem like the ad is selling LeBron himself? His super-stardom has already reached a point (and did probably when he was 17) where everyone is painfully curious, and in that regard, kudos to not only LeBron, but to Nike as well for selling THE MAN. For LeBron it allows him to remain the biggest thing on the planet (which only helps his sport), so long as he does ANYTHING on the court, and for Nike, they get to ride his coattails in some regard, allowing them to not only sell his shoes, but to sell everything he lays his fingers on.

Because it's not "like Mike" anymore (which Nike also backed into, thanks to Gatorade).

It's "like Lebron."

Yeah. I'm a witness. (Case in point?)

Christian Thoma said...

A couple things:

1) Let's not turn comments into a rousing chorus of "Simmons did it!" (South Park reference, love the alliterativeness of it)

2) The ABA ball was the F'ING BOMB

Unknown said...

i was not implying that sports guuy did it, simply that there is more than one type of comparison between lebron and borat, being that the nature of dan's borat/bron wasn't the same as sports guy's

and i have to agree....

what percentage of the NBA would favor going to the ABA ball

marcomarco said...

in my previous life, this would have made a hell of a fun analysis for Page 2

We never did hear the juicy details of that divorce...

Christian Thoma said...

Alert! Michigan State having a news conference at 1:30. Queue up the ol' ESPN Radio.

Christian Thoma said...

What a waste of time, it's a freaking commercial get a life're posting on a blog, and you're telling someone else to get a life? I really don't think anyone here has the moral authority to make such a proclamation.

Christian Thoma said...

No need to listen to the conference:

Michigan State football coach John L. Smith has resigned, but will stay with the school to coach any possible bowl game the Spartans would play in,'s Ivan Maisel has confirmed.

Mega said...

Borat = Tom Green

Unknown said...

i dunno wat the borat = tom green was about

besides borat being much funnier, he's a fictional chacrater whereas tom green is a real person, or so he'd like us to believe

Christian Thoma said...

Who's Tom Green?

Brian in Oxford said...

The Pepsi One guy during the NCAA tournament.

Unsilent Majority said...

Cohen gets bonus points because he's never put a hex on Agent Zero and he's a British jew...which makes me smile

pv845 said...

Gag me! What happened to actual sports on ESPN?
I remember when ESPN showed actual sports and Sportcenter displayed an hour of highlights.
Poker is not a sport. It is fun, but not a sport. Touching stories about fans are not sports. It is nice to see, but it seems like there is more drama on ESPN than on TNT, ... TNT, ... TNT. It is a joke.
All of these movies, series, talk shows and crap following a person around is junk. All of this junk showing the individual above the team is destroying sports. 24 hours of TO, LeBron, A-Rod, Reggie Bush, Sebastian, Bonds,... is sickening and is not SPORTS.
I want sports highlight on Sportcenter and actual competition on the channel.
I suggest that if ESPN want to show this junk, start a new channel called ESPN Drama. Then those of us that want to watch sports can ACTUALLY watch sports.

ToddTheJackass said...

Wow Dan, that's some crazy overanalysis. We need to get you back doing chats to kill time.

-Todd (Boston)

Anonymous said...

C'mon Dan, the Lily Tomlin character is named Edith Ann, not Emily Ann.

pv845 said...

Thanks for the update. I don't how I missed the MTV analogy. You are right on with that.

BLUE said...

are you over your lebron man crush yet. we might have to take some man points away.

BLUE said...
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