LeBron James and the Curse of Prosperity: Basketball, American Culture and National Ideology

By Thomas Maple.

Published by The Sport Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Basketball and semiotics, both American inventions from the 1890s crafted to help order society along structural lines, are engaged in an ideological analysis of national identity and the political economy of sports commercials. Michael Jordan’s unparalleled ability to win championships and influence people contrasts sharply with Charles Barkley’s rough yet pointed ideology, but both men worked in concert to shape American identity. LeBron James stepped into their spotlight in 2010 and incurred the wrath of a country raised on potent commercial images of these basketball stars. How LeBron positioned himself as a globalized market mercenary in a time of great economic tumult defined his place in American culture and poisoned the national sentiment for a sublimely talented athlete guilty of nothing more than the free exercise of rights related to his labor. Using Charles Pierce's iconic triad of semiotic analysis and the sociopolitical context of American society since 1992, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley's commercial presence can inform a greater understanding of the national uproar surrounding LeBron James in 2010 and 2011.

Keywords: LeBron, Jordan, Barkley, Nike, Semiotic, Basketball, Pierce, Nationalism, Marxism, Reaganism, Corporatism, Triad

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.185-196. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 305.738KB).

Thomas Maple

Graduate Student, International and Intercultural Communication, College of Journalism and Communication, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA

Thomas Maple is a writer/researcher with a M.A. in Mass Communication from the University of Florida. His interests lie at the intersection of sport, commerce and cultural identity.