Sports | October 28, 2017 5:00 am

How LeBron James Helped Shaped the Modern NBA

By controlling the narrative, Cavs superstar has made the game more player-centric.

LeBron James
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavilers goes up for the dunk against the New York Knicks on February 22, 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
NBAE/Getty Images

LeBron James is one of the most dominant basketball players in the NBA today. That’s indisputable. But as The Ringer argues, it’s more than just what he does on the court that matters. It’s tweaks to the game itself that have caused a plate-tectonic shift in how modern basketball is played.

LeBron’s two biggest additions to NBA culture? “The strategic use of contract length to maximize leverage and a comprehensive media strategy that takes player content directly to an audience,” notes The Ringer. That has allowed him to “control the narrative.”

Examples of these are everywhere. In 2006, for instance, James, along with fellow ’03 draftees Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, made a pact to sign three-year NBA deals, throwing the market into a frenzy. Deals would get ever shorter from there on out, and it would eventually offer some of the league’s biggest names the flexibility to team-hop—forming superteams like the Golden State Warriors. (This has obviously not gone entirely in James’ favor.)

Also, despite how pitiful ESPN’s The Decision came off—that being James’ live announcement about where he’d chosen to go in the NBA—what it did was effectively give James control of the literal narrative. It led to the launch of his own brand, Uninterrupted, and similar ones like The Players’ Tribune. That has made James into sort of this quasi-oracle, making the media hang on his every word and allowing him to break his own news via Twitter or Instagram (see: calling the president a “bum“).