A few days ago, a friend alerted me to a LeBron James tweet. In responding to the question, “Hey LeBron, what’s the one thing most people don’t know about you?” by a fan named @_celestial, LeBron tweeted back, “How much I miss my fans in Ohio/Cleveland.”
Really, LeBron? You know you are the one who left them, right? I thought you would have responded with something like, “I may or may not have paid off the ESPN guy who ranked me the No. 1 player in the NBA on that list.”
James’ response reeks of a public relations move, just another one of those insincere moments in sports we’ve grown to love. Which led me to thinking...
Here’s my list of the nine most insincere moments in sports (in no particular order). Enjoy.
Through 2002-05, Johnny Damon was one of the major faces of the Boston Red Sox. He was a significant contributor to the Red Sox’s 2004 World Series victory.
Damon was even the one who hit the game-clinching grand slam in Game 7 of the unforgettable 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees where Boston came back from three games down to win the series.
With his hair shoulder length and a beard, he was the opposite of a Yankee, whose organization enforces a strict dress code forbidding long hair and facial hair beyond mustaches.
Damon had this to say in a statement in May 2005, “There's no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they're going to come after me hard. It's definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It's not what I need."
Then just five months after these most loyal words, Damon signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the hated Yankees. It was reported that Damon wanted a four-year contract while the Red Sox were standing firm on offering a three-year contract.
The one-year difference was enough for Damon to cut his hair and show up at his Yankees’ press conference clean shaven with a smile. Money trumps all.
The date was January 16, 2006 when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant found the cameras and embraced on the nationally-televised game between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers.
It looked as if everything was alright, but it wasn’t and how could it be? A lot had happened between them. From Kobe running Shaq out of town (even if it was inadvertently), to news coming out that Bryant had referenced O'Neal when being questioned by police in 2003, stating that he should have just paid off his women so that they wouldn't say anything, just like O'Neal—why was there even a handshake?
Everyone should have known it was insincere, but just in case they didn’t, Shaq reignited the feud during the 2008 offseason following the Lakers loss to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. Rapping at a party, O’Neal was recorded freestyling lines of, “Kobe couldn’t do it without me” and “Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes?”
For his part to keep the feud going, Bryant, after winning the 2009 NBA Finals, was asked what it meant to him personally. He responded, "Just one more than Shaq...you can take that to the bank." Bryant added, "You guys know how I am. I don't forget anything."
Can I just list every Brett Favre retirement press conference?
For one of the toughest players ever to play in the NFL, he sure does cry a lot.
Rafael Palmeiro’s pointing finger steroid denial has to be the best out of all the steroid denials.
Better than Roger Clemens “mis-remembering" defense. Better than Sammy Sosa’s “I forgot how to speak English" defense. And better than all of Barry Bonds' denials that were really not even funny at all.
For Palmeiro to go in front of a Congressional hearing, under oath, emphasizing each word of, “Let me start by telling you this; I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it more clearly than that. Never,” with a finger point, was priceless.
Four months after this statement, Palmeiro was suspended 10 days for testing positive for a steroid. He then released this statement, "I have never intentionally used steroids. Never. Ever. Period. Ultimately, although I never intentionally put a banned substance into my body, the independent arbitrator ruled that I had to be suspended under the terms of the program."
After his 10-game suspension, Palmeiro returned to Camden Yards on August 11, 2005, though he did not play in the lineup until August 14, the date that had been planned as "Rafael Palmeiro Appreciation Day" in celebration of his 500-home run, 3,000-hit milestone.
“Rafael Palmeiro Appreciation Day” was cancelled for some reason; maybe management thought the timing was just not right. Sixteen days later, on August 30th, 2005, Palmeiro made his last MLB appearance.
After a Dallas Cowboys 21-17 playoff loss to the New York Giants in 2008, Terrell Owens was found behind the camera, wearing sunglasses with tears running down his cheeks, saying:
"This is not about Tony. You guys can point the finger at him, you can talk about the vacation, and if you do that, it's really unfair...That's my teammate. That's my quarterback. You guys do that, it's not fair. We lost as a team. We lost as a team, man."
For some average fan, Owens’ response might have looked very sincere, and that he really, truly cared for Tony Romo. But for a person who knew the slightest information about how Owens treated his former QBs, his lip-quivering response just evoked laughter.
In a 2005 ESPN interview, just when Owens was wearing out his welcome with the Philadelphia Eagles, he bashed his then-QB Donovan McNabb.
Owens was asked whether or not he agreed with a comment made by ESPN analyst Michael Irvin, in which he said that he thought the Eagles would be undefeated if Brett Favre were on the team instead of Donovan McNabb.
Owens not only agreed but also called Brett Favre a warrior, implying that McNabb wasn’t. McNabb, who was playing with a sports hernia among other injuries at the time, must not have taken too kindly to the interview.
Even before the McNabb interview incident, there was the Playboy interview (h/t ESPN) where Owens questioned his then QB Jeff Garcia’s sexuality.
Tiger Woods resurfaced in public, two weeks after a “car accident” in front of his house. Rumors were swirling around about just what actually happened. Was he caught cheating on his wife, Elin Nordegren? Did she cause the accident?
In the press conference, Woods said, "After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father and person."
Since then, it had been discovered that Woods was cheating on Nordegren, and cheating on her a lot. Multiple women claimed of having an affair with Woods, and it seemed like most of them were telling the truth.
One could actually say the clean-cut, family-man persona that Tiger was putting out his whole career could be the longest insincere sports moment.
Kobe Bryant gets double-billing on this list. And this time, it has nothing to do with Shaq. Just a ring, his wife and a sexual assault charge.
In 2003, three hours after he was charged with sexual assault, Bryant declared his innocence at a press conference held in the Staples Center.
Bryant stated, "I didn't force her to do anything against her will. I'm innocent." He went on to say, "I sit here in front of you guys, furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery. And I love my wife with all my heart."
Then comes the kicker—while cameras were still recording, Bryant, who was then crying, said this to his wife, Vanessa.
"You're my backbone. You're a blessing. You're a piece of my heart. You're the air I breathe. And you're the strongest person I know, and I'm so sorry for having to put you through this and having to put our family through this."
Three days after the press conference, Kobe bought his wife a $4 million ring.
The charges against Bryant were later dropped. He did, though, offer a public apology to the accuser.
In 2007, while Jason Kidd was still with the New Jersey Nets, he called in sick to a game, complaining of a migraine headache.
Now, while this may be just another injury for another player throughout the NBA, it was not for Kidd.
Kidd played through just about any injury and was known for being one of the toughest players in the game.
What made it even more alarming was that the game was against the New York Knicks, a game between the Nets cross-river rivals. Throughout his career with the Nets, Kidd treated Nets/Knicks as almost playoff games and loved beating them.
Multiple team sources told The New York Post that Kidd was on strike.
Kidd was very unhappy with the current state of the team and was itching for a trade. He ultimately got his wish, when he was shipped off to the Dallas Mavericks, where things worked out for him.
But did Kidd truly fake a migraine? If he did, it has to leave a little bit of a black cloud over his phenomenal career with the Nets.
While Nick Saban is one hell of a football coach, he leaves much to be desired as a human being, at least for Miami Dolphins fans.
Nick Saban took the Miami head coaching job in 2005. The team was probably not expecting too much after finishing the 2004 season 4-12. Then, they really didn’t expect too much after starting the Saban era at 3-7.
But then, the Dolphins got hot, winning their final six games of the season, including a final-game win over the New England Patriots in Foxborough. The surprising 9-7 team just missed out on the playoffs.
All of a sudden, Miami was back under the tutelage of the great Saban.
With high hopes going into the 2006 season, hoping for a playoff spot, the Dolphins started out a very disappointing 1-6. The Daunte Culpepper starting-QB experiment did not work, and the team was left with Joey Harrington and third-stringer Cleo Lemon.
While they did get hot again, winning four straight, they finished the season at 6-10. Not too bad considering and plus, in Saban the Dolphins trust. But then this happened:
During the season, in November, the University of Alabama dismissed head coach Mike Shula. While Saban was rumored to be at the top of Alabama's list, he refused to discuss the job while the NFL season was underway.
Then came December 2006; Saban was bombarded by the media about the Alabama job. Ask as they may, Saban denied and denied again, even saying, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."
Saban finally met with Alabama officials on January 1, 2007. Two days later, he announced that he had accepted the head coaching job for the University of Alabama.