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O/NSO: The LeBron factor edition

The Obvious: The arrival of legendary NBA basketball player LeBron James to the Los Angeles Lakers adds more pressure than ever on the other local sports entities – including the storied USC Trojans football program – to not only win at the highest level but do so spotlighted by superstar performers.

The Not So Obvious: For the Trojans’ football program, it will shortly be in immediate competition for media attention when both the Men of Troy and the Lakers are simultaneously in-season together. Coincidence or maybe not, on the day that LeBron signed with the Lakers, the Dodgers – normally blacked out in approximately 70 percent of the LA area during the regular season – announced that an additional five games would be televised to all of the Los Angeles market, four games in August and one in Sept. In the recent past, the Dodgers have announced a local non-blackout TV schedule in the heat of a pennant race, but the Boys in Blue know how a LeBron can overshadow – at least for the present – even a battle for the MLB Western Division title. For the USC Trojans, it will also be interesting to see the ratings if and when their televised games conflict with the Lakers in the early going. If anything, it will be intriguing to see whether or how the LeBron factor may affect the cardinal and gold in the City of Angels.

The Obvious: Clay Helton is entering his third season as the fulltime USC Trojans’ head football coach.

The Not So Obvious: Although USC football is an institution in Southern California, winning big and entertaining will again be refocused, thanks to the overwhelming shadow of LeBron James, and nobody will feel it more directly or indirectly than Clay Helton, who will be expected to provide headline grabbing victories, conference and national championships – and did we mention electrifying and star-studded athletes? The good news is that there’s much to sell of the Trojans football program and with the continuing renovation of the Coliseum and the possibility of a young superstar quarterback in J.T Daniels to infringe somewhat on the King James factor, the next two seasons of USC football should be fascinating to say the least.

The Obvious: Before every Trojans’ home game kickoff, there is a guest celebrity that leads the Trojans out of the tunnel onto the fabled Coliseum turf.

The Not So Obvious:You know the old saying that if you can’t beat’em, join’em? Don’t be shocked this season if one of the celebs leading the Trojans out of the Coliseum tunnel is LeBron James. That would be one way to cross-market James with the Trojans. Ya think that might get a Coli response – especially with recruits looking on?

The Obvious: LeBron James has signed for four seasons with the Lakers.

The Not So Obvious: The good news for USC football is that it has a solid base of fans, and the Trojans have a history of maintaining their place in the L.A. sports market even during the past great Lakers’ reign of championship teams, which included the like of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy, and let’s not forget the Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neil era.

The Obvious: It wouldn’t be all that surprising if LeBron James showed up not only at a USC football game or two (Notre Dame?).

The Not So Obvious: When LeBron was an underclass student at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School in Akron, Ohio, he played wide receiver on the football team and was reportedly recruited by a number of D-1 schools, which included Notre Dame. In fact, during his sophomore gridiron season, James was named first team all-state, and as a junior, he helped lead his Fighting Irish teammates to the Ohio state semifinals. After James broke his wrist during an AAU basketball game, he elected not to play football in his senior year. Recruiting experts, coaches, and media believe LeBron could have eventually played in the NFL had he so desired.

The Obvious: LeBron James’ oldest son, Lebron Jr. or better known as “Bronny”, is considered an elite basketball player rumored to be headed to Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon HS, located in northern Los Angeles suburb of the San Fernando Valley.

The Not So Obvious: Well, you can imagine that “Bronny” will be high on the radar screen of Trojans’ head basketball coach Andy Enfield. Of course, that dream possibility could evaporate if Bronny follows the path of his famous father and goes directly to the NBA out of high school.  

The Obvious: And finally, the actual effect – good, bad, or indifferent – of the LeBron James factor will probably remain an unknown until both the season and the marketing strategies play out.

The Not So Obvious: With LeBron James’ new address at Staples Center, which is located right the street from USC and the Coliseum, the shadow of the King James will be felt at some level. Perception and image is everything in L.A, so the Trojans should be motivated for the James challenge. Then again, there is always the old sports saying that “we can’t control what the other guy does, but we can control what we do.” One thing the Trojans can do when win, win, win and be entertaining with megastars in the process, so help me LeBron James.

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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