A couple months ago, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel commented on the mentorship and advice that his friend, Miami Heat star LeBron James, had provided during his troubled offseason with the NCAA and newfound notoriety as a Heisman Trophy winner.
On Thursday night, James provided his side of the story, and hinted that Manziel's recent agreement with Mav Carter, who is James' business partner, could lead to the two star athletes being more than just friends.
"Throughout this whole season I would text him weekly before the games, after the games, and I didn't know it would lead to obviously us being together now as far as business, but I was happy to help him," James said.
Manziel's popularity will no doubt provide him with a wide-open door for a shoe/apparel deal at a minimum, but given his pursuit of trademark rights to the phrase "Johnny Football," it stands to reason that, from a marketing and merchandising standpoint, Manziel is looking to cash in on more than just sneakers.
How well Manziel plays early in his NFL career will no doubt dictate just how much potential there is for earnings beyond his NFL contract. But he is clearly setting himself up to maximize that potential, whatever it may become. As for James' mentorship of Manziel during his college days, James said he took a quick liking to the Aggies' icon for his competitiveness.
"I think at the end of the day, he's an unbelievable competitor and we love what he brings to the table as far as being a football player and as far as being a young man that's trying to strive for greatness, so we're just happy we're able to be a friend of his and be able to help him," James said. "... I think he's not the only college kid that's ever went to a frat party, or the only college kid that ever had fun, but obviously he's Johnny Manziel so it's blown out of proportion. But when the opportunity was brought to me, I basically just told him, if he's willing to listen, if he's willing to take my advice, then I'm willing to give it and he was all for it."
Mav Carter has a lot to work with, here.
But Manziel's marketability still has a long way to go before it belongs in the same sentence with James. After all, James took the NBA by storm as a rookie, and had the credibility for marketing dollars long before he was ever criticized for leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers, or questioned for his ability to win an NBA title.
Since James never went to college, Manziel's two years as a Texas A&M legend certainly give him a head start in terms of popularity. But Manziel will also have to show it on the field in the NFL -- and fairly quickly -- if he is to transcend from athlete to brand name.