King James Gives NBA Black Eye

Ryan Chapman@made4golfCorrespondent IJune 1, 2009

We are all victims. 

While that statement may sound a little melodramatic, it's not a far cry from "We Are All Witnesses." 

The only thing NBA enthusiasts and sports fans in general witnessed this weekend after Game 6 of the Orlando Magic-Cleveland Cavaliers series was a self-centered act from the league's biggest star: LeBron James. 

In case you casually follow basketball or steer clear from any sporting news network, here's a quick recap of Saturday night's events:

Immediately following the game, in which Cleveland was eliminated from the playoffs, the Cavs' leader and biggest star left the court without as much as a head nod to his opponents or teammates. 

James then showered, dressed, and left Orlando's Amway Arena in silence, choosing not to talk to the media. 

We've all seen athletes snub the media after a particularly hard loss, but it was James' conduct while leaving the floor that is rarely seen in professional or amateur sports. 

Heralded as the next Michael Jordan and given titles such as "King James," he is the face of the NBA today and even USA Basketball, as was evident in Beijing at the Olympics this past summer.

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His likeness adorns billboards, skyscrapers, magazine covers, and most importantly, posters on the walls of kids across the nation. 

With this type of mass-marketing that James has embraced and encouraged, every move he makes during and after games is watched and scrutinized by millions worldwide. 

As a result, when he left the court after Saturday's loss and exhibited some of the worst sportsmanship the league has seen this year, the debate was on. 

Many sports journalists, commentators, and radio show hosts were eager to support James, calling him a "winner," a "competitor," or just plain frustrated with his teammates and the outcome of the series. 

They made excuses for his behavior, saying he had to support the entire team, the city, and the league all year and he's just tired—too tired to shake an opponent's hand.

Many even compare James' actions to Jordan's highly competitive nature and mention that His Airness was also a sore-loser.

Whatever the sports media or James supporters contend, the fact remains that King James was a poor sport who later defended his actions and expressed frustration with the loss. 

What he did after the Cavs' defeat cannot be excused by inexperience, age, frustration or fatigue. It can only be explained using one word: sportsmanship, or lack thereof.

Sportsmanship is ingrained in the core of every little leaguer, intramural athlete, Pop-Warner youngster, and amateur competitor who picks up a bat, glove, helmet, or ball and participates with others in sports. 

Anyone who has ever played a game has been introduced to the principles of sportsmanship and one's obligation to his opponent, win or lose. 

In fact, many of us have probably exhibited poor sportsmanship at one time or another and were instantly corrected by a coach or teammate, forced to either apologize or take some responsibility for our actions. 

We expect our kids to learn these unwritten rules and apply them following every game or match. 

How can we then expect our kids to learn the importance of being a good sport when they are constantly reminded that athletes at the highest level break those rules because, well kid, "he's a winner."

Unfortunately, James is the MVP of the league, and his representation of the NBA as a whole is spot on. As many already recognize, the game is full of selfish, immature, overpaid "men" under the age of 25 who are only out to "get theirs."

Sadly, this is nothing new to the NBA. One might recall the Detroit Pistons led by Isiah Thomas refusing to shake hands with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls after being swept out of the 1991 NBA Playoffs. 

No one excused Thomas's behavior then, and the same goes for James today.

You don't get respect for being tough and ignoring your sporting obligation. You earn it by fighting hard every minute of the game until the final horn sounds, then realize you PLAY for a living, walk over, and congratulating the victor for being better that day.

To the delight of NBA commissioner David Stern, James has been nothing but the poster-child for Stern's new league image, where players dress to impress, avoid technical fouls, and are model citizens in general. 

With one non-violent act, James threw away that image and earned an unwanted reputation.  

All season long, James was praised by every coach and player in the league for his incredible level of play, his devotion to his teammates, and willingness to share the spotlight. 

He not only scores a high percentage of his team's points, but distributes the ball and facilitates opportunities for everyone else.

For much of the season, and throughout the playoffs, Cleveland was the model of team chemistry, evident in pre-game rituals and in-game fluidity that resulted in 66 wins and playoff domination through the first two rounds.

But with one act, James brought all of that positive energy to a halt, choosing to put himself before the team, the city, and the game.  

James has a lot to learn before he can teach our latest generation of aspiring basketball stars how to win and lose like a man.

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