For the fourth straight spring, LeBron James has mired himself in his self-imposed “Social Media Blackout”, where he just stops tweeting and apparently stops reading or watching anything of any kind for the NBA Playoffs. 

Does this strange, pseudo hibernation from all things media actually help The King play better?  Is it possible it might be hindering him?  Is there any way to even tell, one way or the other?  Probably not.  But that won’t stop us from trying!

The Blackout is born

It all started back in the summer of 2012, a year after LeBron and the Heat were publicly flogged at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 Finals. 

Apparently, Bron Bron felt as though big, bad social media was somehow to blame for his forgettable performance in that series, because as soon as the playoffs rolled around the next year, he commenced the first of his self-imposed bans from the digital world.
Tuesday after his morning shoot around prior to the Boston Celtics Game 2, he discussed why he felt the need for the blackout,

I don’t have no phones, no social media, I don’t have anything, I don’t care about nonsense. There’s too much nonsense out there. Not during this time, this is when I lock in right now and I don’t need nothing creeping into my mind that don’t need to be there

He claimed at the time that he was seeking to shed all distractions and focus only on what was important.  A couple months later, he went on to win his first NBA title over the Thunder in 5 games, so it’s hard to argue with the results of his ploy. 
Ever since, it’s become a tradition of LeBron’s to go digitally comatose throughout the entire playoffs.  This year is no different.  He’s officially off the grid, ladies and gents.

Does it help?

Only LeBron really knows whether this whole media blackout thing really helps him on the court or not, and since he keeps doing it every year, one might draw the conclusion that it does.

But when you hash out the statistics, the numbers don’t really show any marked improvement in LeBron’s play since he began the blackout tradition four playoff campaigns ago.  On the contrary, if anything appear to show a slight drop-off. 
In six postseasons prior to The Blackouts, LeBron posted averages of 28.7 points, 8.5 boards, and 7.0 assists.  Over the four postseasons since then, those numbers have dipped to 25.9/7.8/6.0, which is obviously still very respectable, but undeniably a little less productive than before.

To be fair, while his overall numbers have gone down, his efficiency seems to have gone up, as he’s shooting 50% from the field and 34.4% from three in the postseason since his blackouts started as opposed to just 46.4% overall and 32.6% from deep in the playoffs prior. 
The only problem with that logic is that LeBron has also improved his efficiency during the regular season — social media and all — over the past four years, so it’s not as though the uptick in his playoff efficiency can be attributed to his blackouts alone.
I suppose the best measure of whether it’s helping is whether he’s winning or not, and he has won two titles since he started the self-imposed bans from playoff digitalia. 

However, the second title he won would never have happened if it weren’t for a miraculous Ray Allen three in Game 6, and I have a hard time believing that LeBron’s inactivity on social media had anything to do with Ray’s heroics in that moment.

And then, of course, he and the Heat lost outright to the Spurs last season, regardless of his digital silence.  So the titles argument has its fair share of flaws as well.

Final Verdict

The final verdict, at least from this writer’s perspective, is that it doesn’t really help at all.  I think perhaps the first time he went digitally silent, it was genuine; born out of a burning determination to win.  But I think at this point, it’s become more of a marketing stunt than anything else.  It’s simply a way to display to the fans, tangibly, how much he cares about his craft.

Not only that, but there also seems to be an element of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” in play here, in the sense that people always want what they can’t have. 
In the same way that banning Harry Potter from schools and stores only caused demand for the books to skyrocket, LeBron banning his fans from interacting with him online only serves to drive up the demand for that interaction when he does eventually return.  It’s quite clever, if you ask me.
And even if I’m wrong, and this whole social media blackout actually does help LeBron play better, then that begs the question: doesn’t that mean that it’s holding him back in the regular season?  Think about it.  If he’s readily admitting that social media is a distraction to him playing his best, then why is he ever using it at all?  Why engage yourself in something that you know is only hindering you?  It’s pretty much the equivalent of Josh Hamilton telling the Angels that he’s only gonna quit drinking for the playoffs.

But hey, I guess if he can parlay it into another title this year, then more power to him.  Kudos to you and your media blackouts, LeBron.  If nothing else, you’ve given me something to write about today.
If you want to see Lebron James on Uninterrupted, a special by Bleacher Report talking about the lead up to the Playoffs check it out below:

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