Monday, August 9, 2010

LeBron Brings the HEAT: Hip Hop Weekly presents Skyboxx (Collector's Edition)

Today I found myself in a Ralph's supermarket staring at a shiny magazine with a certain basketball superstar gracing the cover wearing the Heat jersey across the front. Only this time it was not Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Shaquille O'Neal or even Dwyane Wade. No, this time it was none other than LeBron James.

I quickly gravitated towards the newsstand and grabbed the collector's edition of Skyboxx from Hip Hop Weekly. I can honestly say that I have never seen this magazine before in my life and felt like dedicating an issue to LBJ was a cheap ploy to capitalize on this entire fiasco after all mediums have inexplicably turned their back on their "chosen one". I felt silly shelling out the $6 for the magazine at first, but I then reminded myself that this was a once in a lifetime historic event that I will want to have with me as a lifelong Heat fan. The Sports Illustrated fiasco had left a bitter taste in my mouth, because they were handed the honor of photographing the "3 Kings" and they largely ignored Wade and Bosh in the article and took cheapshots at LeBron.

Side note: a worthwhile nickname is still a work in progress, but I will toot my horn for coining "3 Kings" on the sentinel board the day Bosh and Wade signed on... I said if James signed they would eventually be known as the "3 Wise Men" for going against the grain to shower basketball fans with gifts every night they take the court. In Spanish "Los Reyes Magos", the term for the wise men translates to "The Magic Kings"... cheesy perhaps, but very marketable and the most accurate way to describe the phenomenon on which we are about to embark, as blasphemous as it sounds.

So, I looked for the best copy of this magazine and discovered that it actually had LeBron in his Cavalier jersey that you could peel off. A cute idea they have used in their Hip Hop weekly magazine in order to reveal a girl's thong. Solid idea for a cover, the first thing I did was peel off the Cavs jersey and paste it onto the last page of the magazine. He looks so much better wearing that Heat #6.

Right off the bat, I will say that they caught my eye with a good collage of pictures of LeBron dating back to his AAU and high school years and I have to give props to the editor of the magazine, Chris Wilder, for his introductory letter. Not sure they delivered on the "raw, unfiltered perspective" that he promised, but I give him credit for shedding historical light onto the moment by comparing this to Wilt Chamberlain's move from Philly to LA in '68 and to Dr. J's move from the ABA to the NBA - New York Nets to Philadelphia 76ers in the '70s. He claims this to be "the biggest off-court thing to happen to the NBA ever" thanks to the increased media attention and LeBron's marketing team. On that note, this is something I previously pointed out with the Creative Artists Agency connection - something that will not get mentioned in the magazine, therefore Chris gets an A for writing an intriguing Editor's Letter, but loses points for not delivering "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" as he promised his magazine would.

The first feature is called "2 Live Stews Stewing it up". For those who don't know, and I include myself in that crowd, Ryan and Doug Stewart have a morning show in Atlanta and also have appeared on ESPN2. They are former football players and their gimmick is that they disagree with each other in anything they ever talk about. Ryan defended LeBron, while Doug attacked him. Ryan praised LeBron for drawing a 7.3 rating on ESPN, which was higher than 95% of the basketball games on TV that year and pointed out the money that was raised for charity, while Doug was fixated on not only leaving the team that drafted you when you are supposed to be one of the greatest of all-time and was especially down on LeBron for because "he actually came on TV and crapped on those guys". Your equivalent of "Pardon the Interruption", it was a nice way to get both sides of the story. More than I could say for the coverage on other magazines.

The next piece, "An American Dream", was written by Chris Wilder, sort of. He starts off the article with a tidbit about the controversy about who James's fan really is. It was always reported that an ex-con named Anthony McClelland was the disinterested father, but recently a Washington DC Lawyer has emerged, claiming to be the father. Nice job, Chris. However, if you are going to bring this up, why not talk about the fact that this man is suing LeBron for $4 million dollars? Why not bring up the fact that he is now 55, making him 29 when he slept with a 15 year old Gloria James. I thought the magazine was going to be "raw"? Never mind. He does offer a tidbit about how LeBron was discovered at the age of eight at a peewee football game, but none of his teammates knew him because he was not enrolled in school. The coach, Frankie Walker Sr., took him in for the next two years and got him enrolled into school and introduced little LeBron to basketball. Maybe this information came straight out of "Shooting Stars" by LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger, because after writing most of the first page, he quoted an excerpt from LeBron talking about his childhood for a total of five pages, mixing in pictures that should not have been blown up to large sizes due to a little thing called pixels... just not professional. I do recommend reading LeBron's book though, it seems a good read.

The next piece, "The Chosen One", by Christopher S. Palmer was very informative in describing LeBron's journey from middle school all the way into the pros. He also used "Shooting Stars" and the documentary "More Than a Game" for his information, but actually wrote the article rather than borrowing a passage from a book, which is lazy and deceptive. He detailed how this "decision" should not have been too much of a surprise considering how he went the road less travelled in his decision to go to St. Vincent-St. Mary's. He and his AAU family had made the pact to create a high school super team and when his best friend Dru Joyce III decided to go to the parochial school in Akron instead of of the predominantly Black Buchtel High, LeBron convinced the rest of the crew to follow. LeBron defended this decision in his documentary saying "Even if the community looked down on us for that decision it didn't matter. It was worth it for a friend." My only beef with the article was that it described that the Cavaliers successfully tanked for his draft rights, but failed to mention that they succesfully tanked for a #1 seed in a lottery, which represented a 25% chance. I think that the Draft Lottery was too monumental to be glossed over.

The next article, "An Era Begins", by RK Byers was the biggest load of opinionated garbage I had read in a while. He starts from the perspective that Stern and Nike were trying to create a star. He says "we knew it might all be a scam" and "LeBron James wasn't even the consensus smart money pick... Carmelo Anthony, was arguably just as talented, a year older than James and certainly more accomplished", but he really took the cake by claiming "It was almost as if the situation came down to seeing if the Cleveland Cavaliers would draft with an interest to what was really best for their franchise, or would they try to put butts in the seats by going with a kid from nearby Akron who might or might not have only looked good because he was beating up on high-schoolers." Is this what the magazine refers to as "in your face style reporting"? The guy was onto something until he tried to get in my face about it. Carmelo was the safer pick, because of his superior jump shot and his accomplishments at Syracuse University, amongst other reasons, however no sensible General Manager would have passed on LeBron. In fact, Carmelo was not the consensus number two pick as evidenced by the Detroit Pistons drafting Darko Milicic at that spot, but that is just proof that even "sensible" GM's can overthink it sometimes. The writer conveniently forgets that LeBron played Melo in a classic game giving advanced scouts enough evidence of the legitimacy of LeBron's game. The only question mark was if he would be able to live up to the expectations, because he was young. He then does a solid job of quickly recapping his year by year accomplishments in the league, with the most interesting tidbit being about his beef with DeShawn Stevenson. Stevenson claimed LeBron was overrated and LeBron responded that he would not comment because it would be "almost like Jay-Z [going back at] Soulja Boy." Soulja Boy then showed up for Game 3 of the 2008 Cavs-Wizards series and his music was played over the Wizards PA system. The Cavs would go on to win that series 4-2 and Jay-Z recorded "Blow the Whistle", dissing DeShawn Stephenson. Nice touch by referencing Hip Hop, but what about mentioning Jay-Z's "New York State of Mind" later on if you want to go that route? A part time owner of a Brooklyn bound franchise writing a song shamelessly promoting New York City and using his and D-Wade's name in a time when many were fined for even suggesting making a pitch to the players would have been very interesting from a Hip Hop magazine, but this is where I realize just how deep we get on our blog.

The final article, "Miami, Here I Come", by Chris Wilder was up and down for me. The writer gets points for being informative on some of the controversy and for making a connection between "I'm taking my talents to South Beach" and Kobe Bryant's announcement in 1996 "I'm taking my talents to the NBA". However, he loses points when he says "The odds are not good that they'll win a championship this year." That is the one thing anybody that watched "The Decision" should know - the Miami Heat are the Vegas favorites to win the NBA title this year. Again, we start to overthink things to make ourselves sound intelligent. In the very next paragraph, Mr. Wilder concludes that "While they might not win this year, they will win and more than likely win big. At some point they will get solid players around them and that's when these three Olympians will shine like the spotlight that's shining on them now."

The rest of the publication is filled with pictures, twitter reactions to the decision by famous folks, merchandise and LeBron's favorite things. The funniest was #10, favorite team: Miami Heat - showing a picture of a Miami Heat jersey. What an odd decision on their part.

The magazine gets a B- from me. They get an A+ for making this issue. I recommend you pick yourself up a copy if you want to have a keepsake that tries to give both sides of the story, unlike Sports Illustrated, who condemned LeBron. However, if you want to learn more about LeBron James than you already know the lesson here is to pick yourself a copy of his book and documentary. If you do that and google a little, you too can make a LeBron collectors edition. The magazine was refreshing, because nobody worthwhile has given this occasion the honor. However, the writing within indicates that this collector's edition might be even more valuable because ten years from now you will not be able to find anyone that has even heard of Skyboxx Magazine, never mind find you a copy of their LeBron issue.

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