Why LeBron’s black mask needed to stay

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The National Basketball Association struck gold when the Miami Heat hosted the New York Knicks on the first Thursday night after the Winter Olympics cycle completed its course.

Instead of a generic second half beatdown of the Knickerbockers by a rapidly improving Heat team, this nationally televised game pulled off an amazing amount of cross-medium activity between television and the Internet.

The game itself didn’t provide the entertainment, as the Knicks are really only worth watching right now if you can watch the game with an actual Knicks’ fan. Listening to the tone of their voice right now is oddly entertaining because it was just last year that New York really looked like it had a chance to give Miami trouble in a postseason series. Now they’re teetering on the edge of a post-Carmelo world without the consolation prize of a high first round pick in the most loaded draft in exactly 30 years. The Nuggets currently own the Knicks first round pick in this year’s draft because of the Carmelo Anthony trade, oh the irony!

You see television is having a hard time adapting to the rapid growth of the Internet and the way media is being consumed right now. The importance of dominating the social media conversation is still in its infantile stages right now. So when this gift from the city of Gotham luckily appears from the night sky:

You have to take advantage of it.

LeBron’s black mask (R.I.P 2/27/14 – 3/1/14, everybody really liked it!) has been sadly destroyed in one of Commissioner Silver’s first acts. It’s an unpopular decision if you enjoy the entertainment aspect of the NBA. Unpopular might be a bit generous actually. It’s a crushing defeat for all of us who love the random attractions that appeal to us during a professional sporting event. In a few short hours LeBron and his mask created the type of attention that’s usually reserved for mascots who are there to entertain the people who don’t really care about basketball.

Professional sporting events are shows, or episodic television if you watch strictly from your home. But, without the banter of announcers or the excitement of the now gigantic t-shirt cannons, sporting events are for the most part pretty boring unless you have an emotional or financial stake in the event. Reaching the casual sporting community is the key
to drawling high ratings. Creating a marketable star is a key in reaching that extended fanbase that might not have existed without the exposure of said star.

LeBron James’ ability to morph his once tarnished reputation into the type of face fans want to root for is truly remarkable. If LeBron put up this kind of fight about wearing a black mask during his first season in Miami, he would be ripped apart by every talking head imaginable. Now the only thing being ripped is the net thanks to LeBane.

The NBA should be trying to milk everything they possibly can from James. That’s why it’s such a shame the LeMask era died so quickly. He may have lit the Bobcats up for 61 while wearing a mask, but the clear mask is really just an invisible piece of protection. The black mask was a statement. Le(use desired super pun or villain here) scoring 61 on the Bobcats would have been remembered for the absurdity of James’ appearance while destroying the sixth rated defense since the turn of the calendar. Imagine how cool an arena would look if it was filled with people going crazy over LeBron’s three point barrage while wearing a plastic version of the black mask. Sure, it’s straight out of the pro-wrestling playbook, but again the entertainment value of an NBA game is sometimes just as important as a well-executed pick-and-roll.

The league needs a certain amount of stars to keep the news cycle going throughout the season. Let’s be honest with ourselves. There aren’t very many people out there who care about how the addition of Al Jefferson has made the once horrendous Charlotte Bobcats playoff contenders. Just as there aren’t very many people who really understand what Jeff Hornacek has done in Phoenix.

The daily news cycle during the regular season and playoffs needs players like LeBron, Carmelo, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to spin the wheel of content. We need Griffin dunk GIFs. We need the next ridiculous sad comments from Kobe about how he’s frustrated with his current condition. We needed something interesting during the dog days of the NBA’s regular season. Instead of LeBron playing the role of Zorro during the last two months of the season, he’s simply reinserted his name at the top of the MVP conversation, ho hum.

As Dee Reynolds has stated on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, people love stupid shit.

Follow me on Twitter @Scottdargis

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