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For the past decade, it is likely that no two figures have come to represent dominance and greatness in their respective fields more than LeBron James in the NBA and Alabama coach Nick Saban in college football. James has been the face of basketball and will go down as potentially the greatest to ever step on the court. Not much is different for Saban, as he has captured five national titles with the Crimson Tide since 2009, and his six career championships (with more to come) already has him pegged for the greatest college coach ever.
But, since these two icons exists on different sports planes, a meeting between the two is impossible. Well, it was until now. And we have barbershops to thank.
Earlier in the week, Alabama received a copyright infringement letter from Uninterrupted, James' media platform, alleging that the Tide's new video series “Shop Talk” stole from James' similar (in style and title) series “The Shop.” So, what's the deal with these videos?
Well, James' series focuses on LeBron chilling out in the barber's chair, sipping on wine and having conversations with the likes of fellow NBA star Draymond Green and rapper 2 Chainz among others. Alabama's series focuses on Saban chilling out in the new barber shop of the Tide's football complex, having conversations with the likes of former Bama standouts Julio Jones, Ryan Anderson and Eddie Jackson, with the players talking with one another too.
LeBron's videos did appear first, with episode one of “The Shop” airing in June of 2017 and Bama's “Shop Talk” debuting just last week. Another episode of LeBron's series was produced with a third video already filmed. Bama's videos are edited in a similar format to LeBron's and do have near-identical titles, which is why is James took action. But this didn't just end with James sending a letter down South.
A verbal back-and-forth between Saban and James has taken place over the course of this week, with Saban first responding to the copyright claim. “There's been at least 20 barbershop-type things I've seen on TV. I didn't know anybody owned that. I didn't know he had one. I'm sorry that anybody could be offended by something that we were just having fun with. I enjoyed it. And we're going to continue to do it,” he stated.
James, sticking to his guns, responded to Saban's comments by saying “That's exactly what I would think he would say…but I'll be damned if I allow someone to use our platform or try to do the same thing we're doing and just think it's OK.” James finished his response by saying that his legal team would figure everything out.
However, as Billy Mays once said: “But, wait! There's more!”
On Wednesday evening, in the midst of the brewing legal battle between the King and the Tide, Alabama football released part two of the debut episode of their series, only this time with a change in title from “Shop Talk” to “Bama Cuts.” Now, we await any further word from James on the issue. For now, it looks like Bama isn't backing down, as they plan on making this a weekly series with new videos to be released each Wednesday.
Everyone should know by now that the NBA is the pettiest league in sports, and LeBron is no stranger to pulling off petty acts throughout his career, but this may take the cake. It pains me, as a Tennessee fan, to be taking the side of Alabama on something, but I feel inclined to here. Yes, while “Bama Cuts” has a similar relaxed tone and format as “The Shop,” they are still dealing with totally different subjects, settings and experiences of those involved. James' legal action is based on the claim that Alabama stole his intellectual property, which, in my amateur legal opinion, seems hard to do here.
Recording candid, casual conversations of athletes for videos is nothing new and for Alabama, its athletic department figured that recording conversations involving successful former players with Saban in the new on-site barber shop would be an excellent recruiting tool. The two series are for different audiences, with different subject matter and, plus, there's only so many ways you can make a video about athletes in barbershops. Hell, LeBron didn't copyright the idea of friends hanging out in a barbershop to begin with, anyway.
I think this tweet sums up things pretty nicely: https://twitter.com/BourbonGhost/status/981516859500650497
We'll see if there's any updates to the “shop” saga in the coming days. My only true hope is that whatever happens will produce some quality internet.