A September 2018 issue of The Hollywood Reporter features NBA player LeBron James on the cover centered among his creative team made up of mostly people of color. The cover story was published less than a month after president Donald Trump mocked Lebron James on Twitter, and during a time when Black athletes in the U.S. have been scrutinized for speaking out against racism. From opening his I Promise Academy to producing and starring in the remake of Space Jam, LeBron James has built a non-fictionalize and fictionalized storyworld that expands his franchise beyond professional basketball. More Than An Athlete, a phrase LeBron James co-opted from conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham (and is pending trademark), represents various layered identities James has cultivated across media platforms. It also illustrates a form of storytelling and authorship that reveals a complicated counternarrative about race, politics, and sports in the digital age. Scholars are calling for better visions of transmedia theorizing that move beyond debates about definitions, and instead calls for a comprehensive understanding about the limits, possibilities, and evaluations of transmedia storytelling (Murray, 2017; O'Meara and Bevan, 2018). This paper adds to these conversations with a case study that raises questions about conventional conceptions of transmedia authorship, namely: In an era of Twitter storms, Trumpism, and neoliberal branding and self-promotion, what does the storyworld of Lebron James, the quintessential African-American male athlete tell us about racial politics and activism? Who gets to tell the story? Why does it matter to transmedia scholarship?
I am an Assistant Professor of Transmedia Storytelling at Montclair State University. I study digital cultures, storytelling, race, feminism, and social movements. I am also mediamaker. In 2015, I produced Brackish, a visual ethnography about the events of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.