In 2009 Jordan Crawford was one of many young players trying to get noticed before the NBA draft. His career so far was decent, but Crawford needed to stand out to make it to the NBA. Alongside players like Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, he attended Nike’s Deron Williams Skills Academy. His performance earned him the opportunity to go to The LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio. As if going there wasn't enough, the participants got news of something exciting.
“We heard LeBron was going to bring in a bunch of NBA guys, so that’s kind of what we were looking forward to.”
Jordan Crawford, Uproxx
In a first-to-seven scrimmage, LeBron's squad was playing against the college kids when Crawford did something that made the internet explode. He drove to the basket, blew by his man, so LeBron rotated to contest his drive. Then this happened.
Crawford said he didn't think much of it until he got to his room and had many missed calls and texts on his phone. This was big. The video quality reminds us that technology was different back in 2009, but it wasn't just the iPhone 3G era contributing to this.
There was a better angle of the poster, which we can't see because Nike confiscated the video. Ryan Miller video taped the dunk, but Nike Basketball senior director Lynn Merrit confiscated the tape. In a later explanation, Nike said it was against policy to let anyone tape the games, and they were just following procedure. Then Miller came out with a few details that shined a different light:
Miller said he had been filming all day and had his tapes confiscated only after Crawford's dunk over James. "LeBron called Lynn over and told him something," Miller told CBSSports.com. "That's how I knew his name was Lynn. LeBron said, 'Hey, Lynn. Come here.'" Minutes later, Miller said Merritt demanded his tape.
One of the reasons LeBron's image is so polished in public is the level of control about his image. James controls everything; we can't have a video of a young kid dunking on him. The same reason he doesn't take last-second shots in regular-season games - it would ruin his career FG percentage. After the criticism about the confiscation got loud enough, LeBron addressed it. (in a controlled environment)
Ten years later Crawford remembers the attention it got but was mad that his entire week was overlooked because of a single dunk. He did recall Nike reps setting a $500 bounty for dunking on LeBron.
“They never gave me my $500.”
Jordan Crawford, Uproxx
Don't forget, LeBron made more money with Nike than all the NBA teams he played for combined. It's been a very profitable relationship for both parties, and if LeBron wants a tape of a college kid dunking on him gone, it is gone. Crawford didn't care - he got to show his skills and eventually get drafted by the Nets in the first round.