The NBA: Where Sportsmanship Doesn't Happen

Phil Shore@@PShore15Correspondent IJune 1, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 30:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts after a play against the Orlando Magic in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 30, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

It’s something every athlete learns at an early age. Every competitor is told to be gracious in victory or defeat.

Sure it isn’t a perfect world, and sometimes you don’t display as much sportsmanship as you should. As a college lacrosse player, I understand the frustrations of losing and how things can get in the heat of the battle. It’s still important, though, when the final whistle blows, to be a class act.

LeBron James must have missed those lessons.

James told reporters, "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."

Sorry. I don’t think it’s a good excuse.

We lost our last lacrosse game in the first round of the conference playoffs. The opposing crowd was singing Steam’s “Goodbye”. I was looking at a 5 hour bus ride from the game in Vermont back to my school in Boston. I was upset we lost, and I was exhausted because I left it all on the field. But all that aside, I sucked it up and shook hands with the other team.

I hate losing as much as the next guy. It’s not fun. Yet it’s not an excuse for displaying poor sportsmanship.

It definitely isn’t an excuse when it’s the second time you’ve done it.

Last year, after the Cavaliers lost to the Boston Celtics in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals, James also walked off the court without a single handshake or word with his opponents.

As humans we are supposed to learn from our mistakes. In school, we go to history class so we can learn what happened and how to prevent it from happening again. LeBron James should have learned from last year that you should respect your opponents and respect the game by offering congratulations on a hard-fought battle.

As the face of the NBA he is a role model to a large number of kids, like it or not. They look up to him. By storming off the court he showed that it’s OK to be a poor sport.

Also, it isn’t like Cleveland lost the series or the game because of poor officiating. The Cavaliers lost because the Magic played better team basketball.

Although the series was physical, there were no brawls that would’ve had either team seething at each other, creating so much dischord that no one could meet at half court after the game and acknowledge good competition.

No, LeBron was just upset and pouted.

How would he feel if, say, he had won but Dwight Howard neglected to give him his due props?

Some people say that a real man can admit defeat. It is what separates men from boys.

James will certainly be in the Eastern Finals again sometime in his career. And he may lose. Hopefully, by then, he will be mature enough to be gracious in defeat.