Over the course of the National Basketball Association season, I've jumped at basically every opportunity to praise LeBron James. Truth be told, you could say it stopped being dignified several articles ago, and I'd mount only a token rebuttal. After all, I'm a 30-year-old man, openly lusting (in the non-sexual sense) over a kid playing a game with a ball.
How can I sincerely defend myself against the allegation?
However, to anyone accusing me of being totally delusional about LBJ, I'll point to my early season proclamation that Kobe Bryant would carry the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Championship. Sure, if you read between the lines, I'm actually still praising LeBron.
Like I said, I'm pointing to the prediction—not the ultimate reasoning behind it.
With that homage to Kobe at James' expense in mind, it's time to take a foam bat to LeBron once again.
By now, anyone who cares to know it will've heard the story of LeBron's disappearing act after a terrifically underrated Orlando Magic squad belched his Cleveland Cavaliers from the NBA playoffs. Dwight Howard and his mates dominated Game Six, prompting James to cut out—no handshakes, no congratulations, and certainly no press conference.
When you skip those press conferences, get ready for the rack. Because the guys with the poison pens (or the modern equivalents) will let loose the dogs of war if you jilt them.
And jilt them LBJ did.
More importantly and contrary to LeBron's own words, he showed himself to be a poor sport in the face of defeat.
Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, Mickael Pietrus, and Anthony Johnson deserved acknowledgment for a hard-fought series win. Not to mention the first trip to the NBA Finals for most (if not all) of those guys—I'd imagine it's a special moment for guys who make a living playing basketball, so it'd be nice if James could've seen the bigger picture.
Not to mention the damn New York Yankees lid.
Good lord man—Cleveland just had its basketball heart ripped out, and now you're gonna taunt them with a reminder its most prized athlete, its golden son might bolt for the brighter lights and (marginally) bigger dollars?
Wow, poor decisions by LeBron James all around—even if he was just showing love for CC Sabathia or whoever/whatever.
That said, let's keep a little perspective:
1. LeBron "disrespected" the media in its eyes. THAT is what will drive all the consternation, which is already free-flowing.
2. Pulling the no-show is a better course of action if the alternative is throwing a tantrum or saying something unwise in the heat of battle.
In today's athlete/celebrity-obsessed culture, where every faux pas or slip of the tongue is enough material for weeks on end of mindless blather about ridiculous implications of harmless mistakes, James' was the lesser of two evils. If you don't like it, tough.
It's our bed—we made it, and now, we gotta sleep in it.
3. He also disrespected the Orlando Magic players and coaches—this is the bigger offense, but I promise you it's no huge sin.
Ask the Magic guys. I'm betting they're already over it—if they were ever perturbed. These youngsters understand the mindset of LeBron and fellow born-and-bred competitors much better than you or I. Some probably share it.
4. Keep the player in mind.
When I was a kid, I used to throw hissy fits after losses the likes of which were seldom seen then and have seldom been seen since. You know what beat the habit out of me? Not maturation, although that may do the trick as well.
Nope, it was losing. A lot.
I had to be on some crummy teams before I really made my peace with the L. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say LeBron James didn't lose a whole lot growing up—something he's still doing at the green age of 24.
Shoot, he hasn't done a ton of losing since getting to the Association. Give the King time; even the best make an uneasy truce with the sensation.
5. Ultimately, this is just another example of what makes LeBron James the greatest thing going in the NBA.
Go back to that clip above where LeBron explains himself in a cooler moment. Watch him speak and address the reporters asking questions—that right there is why he's about to pass Kobe.
It's why he's the Next S***.
Even I must admit that Bryant is still the better player on the court. Though Kobe doesn't bring it every night as I and others might like, he is—without a doubt—the more dangerous of the two with the game on the line.
I hate the stupid attempt to cross-germinate basketball with baseball vernacular, but Kobe Bryant really is a closer—the only one, in fact, worthy of such heresy in description.
Perhaps it's because Kobe's got more dangerous options when the other team needs a stop, perhaps it's because LeBron's gotta carry more of the load in the early quarters, or perhaps it's just because Kobe Bryant is at the peak of his excellence and he's better than LeBron James—who is still on the way to his.
Whatever you decide, the fact remains the Lakers are gonna win a tight game 95 percent of the time, and it's because of Kobe.
LeBron's not there yet. Yet.
Still, James has zoomed right by Bryant in the hearts of most NBA fans, and you can see why when you compare a LeBron interview with one from Kobe.
Whether true or not, LBJ exudes sincerity and respect.
When he makes eye contact, there is a mutuality present that gets replaced by disdain and condescension when Kobe's the source. King James seems to be speaking from the gut, from a genuine place.
The Black Mamba—like the nickname—seems contrived, every action and word calculated for the best possible effect on the largest possible group.
Like when Kobe was "so exhausted" he couldn't give the postgame, on-court interview standing up. He had to double over because he left everything on the court. Or that's what we were supposed to believe.
Kobe Bryant is Alex Rodriguez playing a different sport. If he were a lake, you could walk across without getting your ankles wet.
Maybe LeBron is just better at doing the exact same thing. Regardless, I buy it from King James.
I believe LeBron James behaved immaturely after his Cavs were eliminated. I believe it was a mistake to pull the diva card and act like the loss was special because it happened to him.
But I also believe LeBron James is a good dude—one who recognizes the mistake, and also recognizes his limitations, so he opted for the smaller transgression.
King James had the maturity to realize he was not yet mature enough.
When all is said and done, that's not so bad.