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"
"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"
"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
"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."