Friday, July 10, 2009

LeBron James' recent moves not so spectacular

ON BASKETBALL

Hey, we all know the NBA is a league run by superstars.

Michael Jordan got all the calls. Almost any other player would have been whistled for a push-off against Bryon Russell during the climatic moment of the 1998 Finals.

Dwyane Wade
was the star of the 2006 Finals, and that was demonstrated by the ridiculous amount of calls he got. Every time he drove to the basket, it seemed, he was rewarded with a trip to the free-throw line.

We know how the league operates. And it's only human nature that if a player gets his way most of the time, he'll come to expect such things.

But once the game is over, all players regardless of their salaries and endorsements should be expected to act in a professional manner. Heck, especially the stars, who have their images to groom and then uphold.

LeBron James hasn't done that, at all, the past six weeks.

I've always liked James, both as a player and a person. Despite being ludicrously wealthy and famous at such a young age, and having never spent a year on a college campus, he's mature beyond his years. He's stayed out of trouble, taken care of his kids and proven to be quite the entertainer (see his SNL appearance and his pregame routine).

But he's come off as a diva and wide-receiver type recently.

First he rushed off the court following Cleveland's Game 6 loss to Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals, not shaking the hand of a single Magic player and then leaving the arena before talking to any media members. A day later, he said his competitiveness kept him from doing such things.

Oh, and other players enjoy losing, LeBron?

That was an extremely weak act on James' part, but it was shrugged off by most people because of James' crystal-clear record when it came to such matters as sportsmanship and making himself available to the media.

He should have been more widely criticized for the disappearing act. Hell, if I was covering that series, I would have been enraged to have to rely on interviews from other Cavaliers after their final game of the season.

But whatever. Life went on.

Then, however, came the alleged incident earlier this week at James' skills academy. James was playing a pickup game with NBA and college players when Jordan Crawford, a 6-foot-4 guard from Xavier, posterized him. Yep, dunked on LeBron.

The gym, apparently, went nuts. Well, at least the high school kids in attendance let loose. Not only that, a couple videographers, who had been taping games all day, got the dunk on video.

But not for long.

According to Ryan Miller, one of the videographers, James went over to Nike's Lynn Merritt and told him something. A minute later, Merritt was confiscating the tape from Miller.

Since the pickup game Monday, there's been all kinds of talk about what happened, but not a peep from James or any of his representatives. All Nike has said is that there's a policy against taping after-hours games. But, again, Miller and others had been taping for a while before the dunk and hadn't been bothered.

What happened in Akron, Ohio, is pretty obvious. And, really, it's silly this is even garnering so much attention.

Thank James for that.

For the past six years, I've considered James an incredibly precocious talent very secure in his broad-shouldered body. Now, all of a sudden, he can't stand the thought of people seeing him get dunked on by a college kid?

If Miller and others weren't accosted by the Nike people and posted the video on YouTube, it would have been a huge hit. Millions of people would have watched it.

But why? Because James is such an amazing, incredible talent. Because he doesn't get dunked on.

All it would have said is that, yes, James is human after all. And life would have moved on, with James continuing to be his dominant self and probably never allowing another dunk during his career.

Big whoop.

By allegedly having Nike swipe the footage, though, James was acting insecure, as if one tiny sign of weakness on the basketball court during a summer scrimmage would damage his reputation.

It's mind-boggling to me. I don't understand it.

I always thought, from watching James the player and person, that he would be the type who could act classy after a loss and put it in perspective (Hey, I'm only 24!) and laugh after such an unimportant happening and maybe even throw a compliment the kid's way.

Maybe we common folk don't know James like we thought. In the aftermath of Steve McNair's tragic death, it is fair to assume that we don't know the half about the pro athletes we watch in sports venues and on TVs around the country.

Still, I thought James was better than this. We all know he has to have an enormous ego to be as good as he is, but I believed he could hold it in check when it wasn't his day.

Hopefully for the fans' sake, James won't have any larger blemishes on his record when we view his career after its conclusion.

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