I was prepared today to start writing about how I was witness to Lebron James's heroics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite the fact that every time he stepped into the paint in the first 5 games the referees automatically blew the whistle, his performance in this series proved beyond any shadow of any doubt in my mind he is definitively the best player on the planet right now. I was going to write about how I Was Witness. After he knocked down the game winning triple in Game 2 a friend of mine, known simply as The Big Walk, sent me a one word text: "witness". I called him and we had an hour and a half (or so) conversation about how it is impossible to be mad because LBJ is just that good. He's strong, and quick. He get's to the proverbial rack and finishes with contact as if it weren't even there. This is what I wanted to write about.
That was until today when I found out the full extent of the pouting following Game 6. I mean, I knew that on Saturday he left Amway Arena without having spoken to the media and that did not bother me so much. As much as I like watching press conferences, players and coaches get fined for saying anything particularly worthwhile so it's really about the slivers of analysis that come out in between the effusive, tongue in cheek praise of the other guy. And you know, I was still prepared to be Witness to LBJ when I found out that 'bronbron left the floor without shaking hands with any of the Magic players.
This morning, though, I heard this quote:
It's hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them, 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. That's what I do. It doesn't make sense for me to go over and shake somebody's hand."
I mean, there are several problems with this, "King James". I was willing to let it go that Lebron forwent shaking hands with the Magic players because I figured he realized that it was the wrong move. It's hard for anyone to congratulate someone after that dude (or collection of dudes, as the case may be) just handed you your own proverbial ass, but that's what men and women do in sports. You say "ah, you rascals, you got me". You do it because it is the RIGHT thing to do, it has nothing to do with ease. "I'm not being a poor sport or anything like that", he said. Let me put it to you this way, Lebron, just because you say something is true, doesn't mean that it is.
I learned this lesson in under-10 soccer. I wanted to give my best friend, Bobby Curry, a little friendly shove at half time. You know, a playful one that said "ah, you rascal you, we're chums". Not knowing at the time that I was the Hulk, I made a bit of a miscalculation and pushed him too hard, making him fall to the ground. "I didn't mean it" I said to his coach (who happened to be his dad), to my coach(who was my dad) and to him. It didn't matter that I didn't mean it, it mattered that I did it and I had to own it. I do, too, by sitting on the bench to rest of that game. Of course, after the game, I went over and apologized because that's what sportsmen do when they do the wrong thing, own it and move on. This is why there's a real problem here. It's not that LBJ didn't shake hands. Even though it was the "wrong move", you can get a free pass on that kind of thing the first time. You can come back and say "golly, that was a bad move on my part, sorry fellas" and you are forgiven. This is especially true when you're Lebron because... well, you're the King and everyone once to fogrive you. You don't come back and say "I'm not being a poor sport, I just am not about to congratulate a bunch of guys who just dominated me and my squadron in 6 games".
Lebron, you're a better ball player than this. I do not expect you to come back and try and "reclarify" your remarks because, well, you said them and they were pretty clear on their face. Next time, just do the RIGHT thing. Shake hands, say "good luck" and move on. It's what MJ did, and if it's good enough for MJ, it's good enough for you.