King James doesn’t forget.
After LeBron James pretended to sip a beer, the brewery ran with the viral moment but King James wasn’t happy.
This is a beef about beer. But it’s really a story about social media and the unscripted moments that catch fire online, then gain a life of their own.
During his Cleveland Cavaliers’ romp over the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Playoffs on Monday, James was fouled on a breakaway. His momentum carried him out of bounds where he jokingly grabbed a beer from a vendor and pretended to take a sip.
The beer happened to be a Dortmunder Gold, made by Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company. Photos of the spontaneous comedic moment were shared far and wide on social media.
Predictably, Great Lakes ran with the moment on social media. Yet two posts which have since been deleted, but reportedly featured Photoshopped images of James’ viral moment to plug Dortmunder Gold crossed a line for the Cavaliers star.
From James’ perspective, he commands massive marketing fees from brands with which he partners, so allowing other companies to use his likeness for free is just bad business.
But there’s a personal element here, too. Some history. Some bad blood.
“This is about the last thing I’m trying to worry about right now, my agent and my legal team will take care of it, but yeah I know (Great Lakes) is trying to benefit off of me,” James told Cleveland.com on Wednesday.
Then he added this: “And I heard they were the same company that made all those ‘Quitness’ beers, and now they’re trying to benefit off me this way? Yeah, it’s pretty funny.”
Ah, yes. Back in 2010, James, an Ohio native, made his famous nationally televised decision to leave the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. (He returned to the Cavs in 2014.)
At the time, disowning James was the fashionable thing to do in Ohio. Some fans were filmed burning his jersey in the streets. And Great Lakes Brewing, being a Cleveland company, piled on as well.
Per Cleveland.com, Great Lakes Brewing in 2010 produced a beer called “Quitness,” riffing off Nike’s “Witness” promotional campaign for James. The beer was hawked as a “a dry hopped India pale ale that leaves a bitter aftertaste, perfectly describing the mood of Cleveland sports fans these days.”
So yeah, that’s what James was referring to. The tweets featuring James’ edited image have since been deleted, and a source told ESPN.com that tension between James’ camp and the beer maker had cooled down.
But it turns out this isn’t the first time Great Lakes Brewing has run into problems involving a sports star and Dortmund Gold.
“The lager is the brewery’s flagship,” reports Cleveland.com. “Originally, it was named The Heisman as a tribute to legendary football coach John Heisman, whose house is in Ohio City and whose name graces the trophy awarded to college football’s best player each year. A potential legal conflict forced the brewery to change the name, and it became Dortmunder.”
James, meanwhile, says he’s more of a wine guy.