The past week has been all about one athlete and his personal brand. As Lebron James gets ready to host a one hour special on ESPN to announce where he’ll sign, it’s perhaps more interesting to look at two other athletes who have taken different, more understated approaches to their personal brands.

First, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder avoids the spotlight in signing an extension to remain with the smallest market NBA team. Heannounces his new deal via Twitter.  The second example is Mariano Rivera becoming a model for Canali. Both have gone about their brands in an understated way, allowing their play on the field to be the most vocal aspect of their brands.  While neither is matching LeBron in terms of outside endorsements, they’re not getting the venom of late.

In the past week, LeBron has gone from a likable athlete to being described as the villain.  Why?  Because he’s made it less and less about winning and more and more about his brand. Brand building and promotion are fine, but if you don’t do your job (in Lebron’s case win championships) there’s a backlash. He’s now in a position where he will have a hard time repairing his image. If he goes to Miami, he’ll be expected to win every year. If he goes to New York, New Jersey, or Chicago he’ll be seen as jilting poor Cleveland and chasing money. If he stays in Cleveland people will call him an ego maniac who just wanted to world to watch him for a while. Whatever happens, the expectations for King James may be unattainable.

The best thing a brand can do? Let the quality of your product do the talking and promote that.

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