LeBron James is a coward.
There's making smart decisions and then there's going completely overboard to "protect your brand." James is the latter.
The Miami Heat star has once again waffled on whether or not he'll participate in the dunk contest this year, but we all know he won't do it. ESPN's Brian Windhorst has come out and done us all one better, though, saying that not only will LeBron not do the dunk contest this year, but that he never will.
Let’s just cut short the annual hedging nonsense. There’s a zero percent chance LeBron James does the slam dunk contest this year. There was a zero percent chance in 2004 when he was a rookie and there will be a zero percent chance next year, too.
Fair enough. Few people know LeBron like Windhorst, who has been covering James since high school. And it's not altogether too surprising. The later we get in LeBron's career, we know the less chance there is he'll even entertain the idea.
As Windhorst also points out, "James has never done it for a very good reason: he has absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose."
See, that's where he loses me, because LeBron actually has plenty to gain. He's had an image problem ever since The Decision that, while it has faded, has never gone away. Doing the dunk contest would put him back in the good graces of many fans who wrote him off.
Fans love the dunk contest. We just want it to matter again and the way you do that is through stars. Blake Griffin was a great start. LeBron James would be better.
And even though Windhorst goes through all of the reasons why LeBron would be terrible at the dunk contest, that's completely leaving out the possibility of a career-defining dunk. You're telling me LeBron couldn't throw down a tomahawk from the free-throw line and blow the roof off the place? There's a chance he could do something great. Ignoring that fact, or not even considering it, is cowardly.
Let's not forget that just doing the event would make it the must-see event of the weekend. Forget the All-Star game, LeBron in the dunk contest would completely overshadow it. He has the ability to be the main event of the main event. That's nothing to gain?
But fans also would have expectations for James that he would not be able to fulfill. He’s been there before, he knows the fallout from that situation. He’ll have enough expectations to deal with in his normal day job that putting himself in a position where success is going to be hard to achieve.
Now we're getting into the "everything to lose section." And of course we start off with impossible expectations. It's LeBron James. He's been dealing with impossible expectations his whole life. He had them coming into the NBA. Not doing something because you don't think you can live up to other people's expectations is a weak excuse. You know, some players use that sort of thing as motivation.
Even if he does disappoint, we're going to look back and be happy that he tried. Go ahead and ask somebody if they'd rather see a disappointing LeBron in the dunk contest or no LeBron at all. It's a no-brainer, we just want to see him in it.
“If I decided to do it then I would have to win,” James said Thursday after the Miami Heat’s practice. “Otherwise it would be a waste of my Saturday night.”
He might not win. Oh, heavens to Betsy. We wouldn't want LeBron to waste a Saturday night. That's taco night!
Windhorst sites yet another reason why James would not enter the contest. "Here’s another reality: James probably wouldn’t win because he isn’t good at dunk contests."
Windhorst backs this fact that James isn't good at dunk contests by invoking his 2003 attempt, when he was still in high school. Well, if he wasn't good at them nine years ago, he's probably not very good at them now. Science.
And LeBron would win, even if it wasn't necessarily deserved (like Griffin last year). But even if he didn't, that's not the point. The dunk contest is about entertaining, and these guys are entertainers.
Earlier this week, James listed his favorite dunks of his career. Of the ones that took place since he’s been in the NBA, all came as a part of lobs over opposing players to dunks through opposing players. None were on those breakaway chances that are essentially mimicked in a contest.
Unless he's dunking on somebody, his dunks are unspectacular? False. Just because those ones aren't LeBron's "favorite" dunks, that doesn't mean they're not entertaining. These are worse than a bunch of poor excuses. They're fallacies.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Whatever you think of James’ position on this matter, know he’s hardly alone. Dwyane Wade is one of the most athletically-gifted players the league has ever seen. His catalog of dunks his plenty impressive. But he’s never gone near the slam dunk contest either and his reasons are exactly the same as James.
Oh, well if Dwyane Wade hasn't done one either, it must be the right decision. Sorry for questioning you, LeBron.
“It would be a lot of jokes, a lot of things said and for years,” Wade said. “I enjoy being a fan on the sidelines and not making a fool of myself.”
They could get made fun of. I take it all back. Shut it down. People could make jokes about them, you guys. I was wrong.
Give me a break. By these excuses, no star player should ever do the dunk contest. Dwight Howard isn't exactly a "dunk contest" kind of guy, but we loved him in it. And we got his iconic "Superman" dunk out of it.
Blake Griffin didn't have to prove that he was a good dunker, we already knew that. And he was even a little underwhelming thanks to expectations that were too high, but we forgave him for that just for showing up and giving us a reason to care about the dunk contest again.
It all comes back to excuses. Nothing to gain and everything to lose. I'd say that sums up LeBron James' career nicely. Because that's certainly not the attitude of a winner.