I was reminded of a scene from the 2007 crime-drama “American Gangster” last week when I heard about the drama between LeBron James and Nick Saban.
The greatest basketball player of all time and the greatest college football coach of all time clashing with each other sounds like a true heavyweight fight. But clashing over a small-scale TV show?
Sounds more like a squabble. A petty squabble at that.
Let’s recap: James is the co-creator of a multimedia platform called Uninterrupted. One series posted through Uninterrupted is “The Shop,” a round-table discussion between James, NBA player Draymond Green, rapper 2 Chainz and others about sports filmed in a barbershop setting.
Not a particularly innovative or creative premise.
But neither was Saban and Alabama’s logo for their own show, “Shop Talk,” which features former Crimson Tide receiver Julio Jones chatting with Saban and other Alabama players in a barbershop setting.
The name is kind of similar, but more importantly, the “Shop Talk” logo is basically “The Shop” logo flipped upside down.
This is similar to the plot of “American Gangster.” In the move, big-time Harlem crime boss Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) has built a monopoly on the local heroin market with Blue Magic, the best heroin around by a long shot. Another, smaller Harlem crime figure, Nicky Barnes (Cuba Gooding Jr.), has diluted Blue Magic and is selling it himself under the name Blue Magic. Lucas did not appreciate this.
“I would have to insist that you change the name,” Lucas told Barnes.
The difference between his product and Barnes’ probably wasn’t enormous — just like the differences between “The Shop” and “Shop Talk” — but that’s not the real issue. What matters more is that the imitation happened in the first place.
If Saban and the Crimson Tide hadn’t chosen such a derivative name and logo for their own show, then I doubt LeBron would have sent the letter he did on April 2 expressing his camp’s concern over copyright infringement, trademark rights and intellectual property. The letter isn’t a hostile attack on Saban or anything. Rather, the idea is to avoid “rushing into legal proceedings.”
LeBron is protecting his business interests and I don’t blame him.
Andrew Huang is a sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJHuang and contact him at [email protected].