The Lebron debacle: NBA’s poster-child turns poor sport

June 2, 2009

I’ll begin this post by saying something pretty unpopular: I do not like Lebron James.  Before you get all up in arms about this, please don’t confuse my dislike for the guy as a knock on his incredible basketball talent, or his (thus far) keen business marketing strategies.  I simply feel that Lebron has been too over-hyped since he was touted as the heir apparent to MJ back when he was still in high school.  As such, it seems like he is already being treated like a God among men even though he has yet to even play on the biggest stage of the sport (the NBA Finals) let alone acquire any championship rings.  I am consistenly frustrated by the use of the moniker “King James.”  How can he be the King of a sport that has seen so many others dominate on a level still unknown to the young 24-year old?  It seems to me like Lebron is already getting Jordan-esque deferential treatment from officiating crews and league officials – a level of treatment that Jordan had to earn by bringing multiple titles to Chicago.   Don’t get me wrong, Lebron is a great basketball player, and he may, someday, prove to be the greatest this sport has ever seen.  But I think it does a great injustice to all of those veterans who paid their dues with years of service to the league and the fans to just give him the keys to the Hall of Fame before he’s fully proven he can handle the reigns (yikes, sorry to mix metaphors there, but you get my drift).    

I also just think it’s a bit unfair that, as a result of being the media darling of the league, Lebron has taken the shine away from some players whom I feel are a bit more deserving of some of that extra cheddar (endorsements people!  stay with me now!).  Kobe, D-Wade, KG, heck, even Paul Pierce (another dude I don’t particularly care for) all have rings and, hence, should be first in line for the top endorsement contracts.  While Lebron has demonstrated himself to be a fairly composed and polished commercial actor, these last few weeks have demonstrated that he can be easily replaced by a muppet (puppet?), so why not give the other fellas in the league their due? 

But what, you might ask, is the impetus for this sudden spewing of hate towards your man Lebron?  After it seemed that the media world had predestined a Lebron-Kobe showdown in the finals, the Orlando Magic “stunned” the sports world by pulling off the “upset” of this year’s playoffs.  If you ask me, it wasn’t much of an upset, as I feel that the Magic are, by far, the more talented team, with a depth of talent that the Cav’s could only dream of having.  In fact, after the Cav’s needed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Lebron to steal a must-win game two at home, I announced that the Magic were going to the finals – and I was right.  This Cavaliers team, which set a franchise record for wins by coasting through a relatively soft Eastern Conference schedule, finally faced the test of playing a legitimate title contender in a 7 game series, and failed said test.  So what did “King James” do?  Did he graciously accept defeat at the hands of a more polished opponent?  Shake Dwight Howard’s hand, apologize to the fans at the ensuing press conference, and make promises for seasons to come?  Hardly.  No, your golden boy made a quick getaway, failing to even shake hands with his opponents, and violating league obligations by refusing to take part in the post-game press conference.  Loss is tough folks, but until you can take a hard loss like a fucking man, have the decency to congratulate the winners, and own up to your responsibilities to a league that has already declared you top guy, how do you even begin to consider yourself one of the elite to play this game?  It certainly doesn’t make you an ambassador of the sport.  Most importantly, I think that this incident signifies that Lebron simply isn’t ready to accept the role as league figurehead.   Losing is tough.  Nobody enjoys a loss, especially when the expectations for success are so high, but this does not excuse Lebron’s actions (or lack thereof).  I read a pretty solid piece from the New York Times which echos my sentiments.

Lebron expressed frustration with losing as an explanation for failing to be a good sport by congratulating his Team USA teammate Dwight Howard, or any members of the Magic organization:

“It’s hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them,” James said Sunday after the team returned to Cleveland. “I’m a winner. It’s not being a poor sport or anything like that. If somebody beats you up, you’re not going to congratulate them. That doesn’t make sense to me. I’m a competitor.”

This quote struck me as rather amusing.  I suppose if I was walking down the street and somebody jumped me, I probably wouldn’t say “Damn dude, that was one helluva punch!  Nice!”  However, Lebron is engaged in a direct competition.  When professional fighters meet in the ring, the exact scenario Lebron describes occurs: one competitor literally beats the crap out of the other, and then they embrace in the spirit of competition.  Lebron’s metaphor, in this instance, is simply misplaced.  As a role model for millions of kids across the globe, what kind of message does this send?  As long as you are a really competitive person, it’s okay to act like a douchebag in defeat?  Really Lebron?  I thought you were better than that. 

Damn Lebron.  I thought we were homies.  How you gonna do me like that?

Damn Lebron. I thought we were homies. How you gonna do me like that?

Setting aside the childish refusal to shake hands at the end of the game (something tells me that the YOUNGER Dwight Howard would have had the testicular fortitude to congratulate Lebron if the Magic had lost) I’d like to examine Bron-Bron’s refusal to participate in the post-game press conference.  While some members of the media are quick to forgive Lebron for taking the day off to collect his thoughts and emotions, I am unable to grant the guy who is supposed to be the ambassador of the league a free pass on this one.  There have been too many other players who have suffered more heartbreaking losses and still showed up to face the music.  On ESPN radio yesterday, Dan Patrick was discussing being in the press room to interview Bill Buckner after the heartbreaking botched groundball that cost the Sox the World Series.  Talk about being the dude responsible for costing your team the championship!  Yet he stepped up to the plate and answered the tough questions.  How about an even younger set of players?  I recall watching the post-game press conference of Chris Webber after the famous time-out call that cost his Michigan Wolverines the national title.  That was a much younger player, in the national spotlight, answering for his actions.  Do you think my beloved Utah Jazz players skipped the press conferences and skulked home after losing in the NBA finals to Jordan and his Bulls?  Everyone competing at that high a level is going to be emotionally distraught after a big loss, but part of being a professional athelete is recognizing certain inherent responsibilities that come with the job.  And what kind of message does the NBA send by deciding not to fine Lebron for violating league rules?  Once again, the “King” gets a free pass.  Part of being a grown-ass man is accepting your responsibilities in life.  Lebron may someday be the great player whom everyone wants him to be, but he’s still got some growing up to do.

5 Responses to “The Lebron debacle: NBA’s poster-child turns poor sport”

  1. Steve said

    I think that the media has overhyped this one. I can easily see that in a moment of frustration just not wanting to talk to anyone. Should he? Yes. But, I understand.

    Your comment about MJ though is off base. Jordan had and got calls before he won anything.

    Finally, for the most part, championships are a TEAM effort. I think that LeBron was overcome with the feeling of, “No matter how good I play, my team SUCKS!” which must be frustrating if you are carrying the weight of an entire town on your shoulders. Cleveland has not won anything since Jim Brown/Otto Graham Browns in the fifties…

  2. Erik said

    All valid concerns with my post, and ones I’ve seen expressed in some of the stuff written on the game and its aftermath. But, like I said, there have been others competing on the championship stage who have been ever more responsible for bad losses and still faced the music. I would have respected Lebron if he’d just rolled into the press conference, said “I’m just one man, and this is a team sport. Cleveland needs another legit star or NYC here I come.”

    None of this really addressed my first concern with Lebron’s behavior. As a role model for kids, his inability to be a graceful loser proves he’s still got a ways to go in this league. It’s not as if he was shocked by a buzzer beater to end his championship hopes. That series was basically over when the 4th quarter started in game 6. He had plenty of time to reconcile his feelings enough to slap five with my man D. Howard before exiting the main stage.

    Ultimately, I think you’re right. It has been a bit blown out of proportion, but I think that’s symptomatic of Lebron’s career. He’s not a God. He acts like a kid who still has much to learn. It’s about time people started treating him that way…

  3. Steve said

    Yep… LBJ has a LOT to learn if he is going to be the anointed one…

    MJ handled it with class against Detroit and KB24 has handled it with the Lakers and the Pistons.

    But, damn, if that 24 year old kid had any help, they would be deadly!

  4. Ronin Storm said

    This is where the college coach would grab Lebron by the arm and give him a little shake. might be a reason for these kids to get an education and grow up.
    ’cause Lebron feels like the king should bow to no one.

  5. merylr0se said

    This whole “he’s young, let him go,” or “it’s a team effort,” is a really bullshit excuse for shitty behavior on LeBron’s part. He has a brand labeled “The King” that he markets HIMSELF. Not only have people latched on to him being “amazing,” but he touts that claim as well, even though as Erik properly put, he has yet to win anything substantial. If you’re going to be the king and let everyone suck your **** because they think you’re the greatest, then you have to own up to your manhood and amazing stature as a human being that you proclaim and be a good example to people and not be such a pussy when you loose.

    I hate LeBron, thank you Erik!

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