The Shop Isn’t Special Without LeBron James

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As NBA training camp is in full swing, the demands of 37-year-old LeBron James are quite high. Still, if he cannot be on his HBO show The Shop, then they shouldn’t film it without him.

LeBron James Barbershop-Set Talk Show Picked Up by HBO (Exclusive) – The  Hollywood Reporter
Courtesy: HBO

That is not to say that the show is not watchable without him. However, the key topics brought up in recent episodes would make a viewer wonder what James thinks about it.

Season 4 premiered on May 28, 2021, and James participated in that episode.  Since then, the Shop has released 3 other episodes towards the end of June, July, August, and September.  James has missed all three.

A case in point is the most recent episode. Tennis great Naomi Osaka is talking about her career, and producer Maverick Carter is asking solid follow-up questions. 

Osaka is a champion going through a personal challenge in dealing with her fame and the pressure that comes along with it. The moment that this show can become super is to have James equate it to his career. What was his mindset when he went through something similar? No one on the current panel could equate exactly with the level of Osaka than LeBron.

“I was really lucky to have Kobe [Bryant] as my mentor and I really loved everything that he passed down to me,” she said on the show, which premiered on October 1st. “I always feel like if there was a younger player that ever needed any advice from me, I would love to give it. If I were to retire from tennis,” she said.

None of the other panelists, including Cavs forward Kevin Love, could ask the kind of question that LeBron James could.

“I would want people to remember me like how I acted toward people and how I interacted. For example, Serena? Her legacy is more than being Serena,” Osaka added. “I started playing because of her, I’m sure there’s so many girls that started playing because of her. Like, she literally built champions. And I think passing it down is how the new generation gets inspired.”

How does LeBron James feel about the constant comparisons to Michael Jordan?  This show is made for those kinds of conversations.

Similarly, the June 25th 2nd episode featured another athlete in the conversation for the greatest of all time, Tom Brady.  James missed that show, and while the conversation was compelling, James’ absence spoke loudest.

DO NOT POST - Tom Brady screenshot on The Shop
Courtesy: HBO

This is not the fault of any of the other panelists, or the show’s co-creator, Maverick Carter. There is no issue with Carter being on the show, and he adds a perspective from his career that is welcomed.

Still, he knows as well as anyone, that he can’t replace LeBron, nor should he be asked to.

Carter is a longtime friend of James and is a partner in Springhill Entertainment, which is instrumental in most if not all of James’ media exploits.

I recently wrote a column about today’s athletes making so much money during their careers, that they don’t NEED to honor broadcasting commitments. Paul Pierce and Chris Webber were examples of guys who left broadcasting gigs and it did not make a dent in their wallets.

It’s easy to make the same insinuation with LeBron. However, seeing him recently on the ESPN ManningCast of Monday Night Football made me realize how much I enjoy his insight.  I find the guy fascinating, and while I do not always agree with his stance, I certainly respect the perspective he offers.

Springhill Entertainment has a contract to make The Shop. It begs me to wonder whether or not they can alter their production schedule to include James. The show needs it that much. 

With no insight as to just how busy LeBron is, it is more important to say that the Shop should not do shows without him than to govern how much or how little he should work. 

In the recent Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance, it was fascinating to see how much time went into making Space Jam in 1996. When did LeBron film Space Jam 2? Or Trainwreck?  Does he have time for all these media projects?

Ever since FOX News’ Laura Ingraham told LeBron James to “shut up and dribble,” I’ve paid particular attention to athletes having a proper voice on issues they are passionate about. The Showtime documentary Shut Up and Dribble focused on the history of the NBA and activism.  That contact is fascinating, and the hope is that The Shop can continue to be that high-quality programming.

My favorite LeBron James story involves the Cartoon Network and the show Teen Titans Go!  During the 2015 NBA Finals, after a Lebron-lead Cleveland Cavaliers victory over the Golden State Warriors (Golden State won that series 4 games to 2), LeBron James tweeted something to the effect that he was celebrating a big Cavs win by watching a marathon of Teen Titans Go! Episodes.

The creators of the show were amazed that the superstar watched their show.  They offered to write a LeBron-centric episode if he would voice it.  Fast forward a year or so, and the episode “The Cruel Giggling Ghoul” was born.

In it, the Teen Titans visit a basketball camp that LeBron is hosting. He helps them fight crime, albeit obeying two rules.

He could not walk anywhere without dribbling the ball (that would be traveling) and every time he dribbled he said, “dribble dribble dribble dribble.”

DC All Access: Teen Titans Go! LeBron James Dribble Dribble - NerdSpan
Courtesy: Cartoon Network

My two children were both under 10 at the time. To this day, they have never seen a game LeBron James has played in. Yet, if I asked either one of them who their favorite basketball player is, they unquestionably tell me it is LeBron James.

The value of LeBron James’ voice should never be undervalued. This is why, if HBO and HBO Max are airing The Shop, Lebron James has to be in a chair getting a shave.  Make it work with his schedule and do not do the show otherwise.

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