The Is LRMR Good For the NBA Debate… LRMR Spells Collaborative Empowerment

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

This whole LRMR thing is getting out of hand.

The problem is people don’t know what LRMR is and what it is here to do. So please allow me to clarify. Contrary to popular belief, it is not an enemy of the state. It’s not a seedy crime syndicate. And it’s not an evil force out to destroy the world.

So now that we know what LRMR isn’t – the Taliban, the mafia, or Justin Beiber – let us try to establish what LRMR is.

It is a marketing agency, plain and simple. A marketing agency that is trying to strengthen the brand of those it represents through collaborative endorsement, not undermine basketball.

Think about the Michael Jordan brand. On his own MJ is one of the most marketable sports stars in history, but somewhere along the lines he discovered that his brand was stronger and more valuable when it was supported by a broad network of stars. Today, names like Derek Jeter, Jason Taylor, and Carmelo Anthony all represent the Jordan brand in different sports and cities, now the Jordan symbol is truly iconic and transcends basketball. That’s similar to the approach that LRMR is implementing, but it is not just limited to a player’s brand. Now players seek to establish control over their careers and where they will play by working together. This collaborative empowerment is not a threat to basketball, but is simply the next logical step in the progression of the game. LRMR is leading the way though the journey is not without its fair share of struggles.

At the very heart of the issue is the simple fact that LRMR is a marketing agency that is ironically experiencing a bit of bad publicity. The focal figure of the agency is the talented and controversial LeBron James. The company was built by, for, and around King James and his brand. That means as goes the public perception of James, so goes that of LRMR. Despite being nearly a month removed from “The Decision” there is still a significant backlash against James, and not surprisingly the negative feelings carry over to LRMR.

But what has the company actually done wrong? I say, “nothing!” LRMR has put its clients in the driver’s seat to their future. It has driven up value through collaboration with other stars. Nowhere is that more apparent than with James’ decision to join with stars and friend Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Clearly James and his agency believed that his worth as part of a super team was even greater than being the biggest fish in a small pond. The fact that it wasn’t just LeBron choosing, but James and Co. deciding where the best opportunities exist for everyone speaks volumes of this new collective player empowerment.

Some critics may attack this strategy and decry it as collusion, but that’s far from accurate. Collusion refers to a secretive agreement, which James decision to consult with other free agents certainly wasn’t. Near the end of the playoffs James seemed to be telling anyone that would listen that he felt that he and other free agent stars could reshape the NBA landscape by collaborating on where to go and how that could impact the NBA for the better.

This is somewhat of a paradigm shift for the NBA and sports in general. It demonstrates how owner’s control over players and the league is continually eroding as players demand more control. James’ decision was so shocking in part because it was one of the few times in sports where a player decided something besides money – owners’ biggest bargaining chip – was their biggest priority. Make no mistake, this was no fluke. It was a benchmark in the evolution of player empowerment.

It has been happening for a while. From free agency to no-trade clauses, players have slowly been assuming more control over their own careers. This is yet another milestone in that journey. Just as factory workers demanding more money, better conditions, and a shorter work day was once unfathomable it became a reality through cooperation and worker unity. So, too, is the case for modern athletes. By no means am I saying they are underpaid or ill-treated, but they have discovered that they are stronger together than they are apart.

My opponent for this debate, Bleacher Fan, will no doubt point to the actions of New Orleans guard Chris Paul. Despite two years remaining on his contract with the Hornets, he has attempted to force a trade since signing with LRMR. I will concede the point that it is neither ethical nor wise for players to try to void their legal commitments with a team in order to further their worth and brand. But Paul is an extreme case which really hasn’t worked out. If anything, his attempts at forcing a trade illustrate an isolated incident of the growing pains the league faces as players attempt to test the boundaries of their new found power.

Right now LRMR may not be liked. It is certainly not like by those who stand to lose the most when players gain power – the owners. But it is just part of inevitable progress. No one is asking the owners or media to like it… just accept it. I would be foolish to think I could persuade today’s judge, Sports Geek, into thinking LRMR is the greatest thing to hit basketball since the three point shot, but it is progress. It is an undeniable example of athletes taking ownership of their career, just as any worker would want to do in their respective field. Professional athletes are some of the most handsomely rewarded workers in the world, but they are workers nonetheless. We should not be surprised that they are following a historical path to progress. The LRMR is not the enemy. It is the future.

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