Al Jefferson isn't a sore loser.
When his Charlotte Bobcats lose to the Miami Heat, he's actually a kind, respectful, pleasantly jealous loser. At least that's how it appears after ESPN's Michael Wallace tells us Jefferson paid homage to the Heatles after their 104-96 overtime victory over his 'Cats:
Al Jefferson stopped by Heat locker room after game. "That's why y'all champs," he told some about Miami's second half.— Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) January 19, 2014
The context of Jefferson's admiration is admittedly incomplete.
Are the Heat "champs" because they nabbed a road overtime victory without Dwyane Wade? Are they "champs" because they went from seemingly disinterested in the first half to defensively spectacular in the second half? Or did Jefferson find it amusing to state facts, because the Heat are, in fact, "champs?"
Maybe it was some combination of the three, or a hidden infatuation with the LeBron James-Chris Bosh duo that combined for 59 points.
Whatever the case, Jefferson was impressed with Miami's second half to the point where he felt it was appropriate to make a locker-room cameo that would've enraged Kendrick Perkins. So aside from impressed, he should be thankful no one on the Heat kicked him out of their visiting quarters.
Interesting moment in Thunder locker room -- Noah tried to enter room after game and was screamed at loudly by Kendrick Perkins.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) December 20, 2013
More surprising than Jefferson's postgame excursion, though, was his kind-spirited attitude.
Overtime losses to the reigning "champs" are hardly anything to lament, especially for the Bobcats, who are currently outside the Eastern Conference's playoff picture, caught in the conference-wide web of mediocrity. Almost beating the Heat is actually an accomplishment.
But it came at a price—Kemba Walker.
Walker injured his ankle after landing on Bosh's ankle as he attempted to attack the rim in transition. X-rays were negative according to the Associated Press' Steve Reed, but he still didn't return.
X-ray's negative on Kemba's ankle. Will not return— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) January 19, 2014
Any injury to Walker makes for a particularly grim outlook in Charlotte, where the Bobcats' playoff hopes are tied to his health and offensive acumen.
"We lose the heart and soul of this team. Kemba's our fight," Jefferson said, per Fox Sports' Nick Parker. "He's the one that kept us motivated."
Most players might not be in a pay-your-respects-to-the-opponent kind of mood after a potential blow like this, but not Jefferson.
Count on him to praise the Heat for being the "champs" after playing like "champs"—no matter what.