Why the New LeBron Commercial Is Problematic

LeBron James for Mountain Dew

What’s on your mind today?

Back on the 13th last month, Mountain Dew released a new commercial (for their Rise drink) that featured NBA megastar LeBron James. At first, I really liked the ad; upon further thought, I began to feel some kinda way.

Woke much?

First of all, let me say that I am a huge LeBron James fan and the commercial made me laugh. However, I find the message insulting to salsa instructors. The ad insinuates that it is a default choice.


Some people delight others by playing basketball. Some people bring joy to others by offering salsa classes. Some people do things on a large scale. Others do it on a smaller scale. Any comparison is pointless.

Why not?

…Because we are never on equal footing.

Can you explain some more?

A few years ago, I released my song “LEF” – Liberty, Equality, Fraternity happens to be the national motto of France. Everyone loved the hook (“The struggle goes on / We just want freedom / Some equality / And fraternity“) but, time and again, some have wondered, “Why are you settling for some equality instead of aspiring to total equality?” And, I tell them that equality is a utopia. We will never live in a fair and equitable world where inequalities are as inherent as they are inalienable. All we can do is try to attenuate them. I have a few questions for you though. LeBron is a hard worker, ins’t he?

Yes, he is.

And is height an advantage in basketball?


The average height in the United States is 1.76m (just a little over 5’9″). So were you to shave 30 centimeters from his 2.06m frame, would LeBron James still have become the player he is today?


Did LeBron James get his height by working hard?


Had he been born in a village in Malawi, would he have had the same career?


Had he not been as healthy and durable, would he have reached the pinnacle?

No again. Where are you going with this?

To have a similar career to LeBron James’, you have to have an innate talent, you have to work hard, but you also have to be very lucky. Poor people are also some of the hardest working people, but we’re always led to believe that they are just lazy. As Youssoupha says in his song “Mon roi“:

“C’est pas en travaillant dur qu’on devient riche, en vrai
Sinon, toutes les daronnes africaines seraient millionnaires”

(Truly, working hard won’t get you to the riches
Otherwise, our African moms should have been millionaires.)

It is extremely difficult to get out of poverty. For a while, we thought that education would be the vehicle for social upliftment, but alas… Schools have exarcebated inequalities: the rich go to expensive private schools, get high-paying jobs, and live in opulence all their lives. The poor go to poorly maintained schools, get lousy jobs, and live in poverty for the rest of their lives.

Once in a while, a poor person manages to get out of poverty. The rich then, in typical tokenistic fashion, laud that person as a hero and tell us that “work pays”.

Doesn’t it?

The harder you work, the more you line a billionaire’s pockets. That’s slavery. People, who change their social class, just change their status: they go from field niggers to house niggers.

You’re taking it a bit too far.

Hardly… They keep trying to make us believe that you can work your way out of poverty. That’s a myth, and the Mountain Dew ad is problematic because it reinforces that belief.

What the ad fails to mention is that there are many circumstances (beyond our control) that determine the course of our lives. There are some who have been able to rise from poverty because they have an innate talent and exceptional skills. LeBron James is in that category. Unfortunately, few of us have exceptional skills.

Basically, LeBron’s success is not just due to his work ethic. He’s also been lucky. Is that right?

There you go. But, there is another issue with the ad.

Another issue?

The commercial promotes hustle culture, which is extremely toxic.

Hustle culture?

Yes, hustle culture constantly glorifies people who get little sleep. It tries to make us believe that to achieve greatness, we must always be awake. This is a dangerous mindset that needs to go. Lack of sleep can have serious consequences on your physical and mental health; the Mountain Dew commercial is problematic because it insinuates that those who take the time to sleep are lazy.

Don’t you think the world belongs to those who get up early?

We all strive for excellence, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of our sleep. In fact, it is strongly recommended that we get at least eight hours of sleep per day. A well-rested body performs much better. I’m sure LeBron, who is a top athlete, knows the importance of rest.

Eight hours of sleep a day is a lot. That doesn’t leave us much time to work…

The real problem is that we are not productive when we are awake. There are too many distractions that divert our attention and keep us from focusing on our goals. Social media is a good example. In 2020, people spent an average of 145 minutes a day on social media. If we spent one less hour in front of our electronics, we would have one more hour to sleep.

Interesting indeed. Would you like to add anything else?

Michael Jordan is the G.O.A.T.

Editor’s Note:
The original opinion piece can be found on ‘Un lion parmi les hommes