Ok… this is a light subject matter but what the heck. It’s been a long weekend and I am still trying to gain my strength back so I’m not looking to think too hard. Hopefully I won’t give too many words to the subject matter.
But I was tripping off how LeBron James walked off the court on Saturday night after the Cavs got dismissed from the playoffs courtesy of the Orlando Magic. Normally in the NBA, teams don’t shake hands after a regular season game, nor during the playoffs with the exception of the final game. Instead, they go to their dressing rooms on opposite sides of the floor after the buzzer sounds.
I have seen some heated playoff series where teams play one another up to seven games over a period of two weeks. By the 4th, or 5th game, the players not only know what the other team wants to do, they are tired and irritable of having to deal with the same opponent which may lead to conflicts and minor scuffles. But after it’s said and done, similar to boxing where guys spend several rounds trying to take each others heads off there is a certain mutual respect extended for competitors. Personally I have been on both sides of that equation as well having both won and loss during baseball and track events in high school, as well as basketball events as an adult. I always felt that it was classy to give props regardless of the outcome.
LeBron doesn’t think he did anything wrong when he stormed off the court like a child. This was his excuse:
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.
Let me tell you the real reason why LeBron walked off the court. A lack of respect for the Orlando Magic players. Let me explain:
The last time you saw a team walk off the court during the playoffs like that was the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons after they lost to Michael Jordan’s Bulls in 1991. Prior to that year the Bulls were Detroit’s bitch getting thrashed every year in May. Jordan would try to do it all himself, but the Pistons would continue to beat Chi-Town. I remember when the Piston players would laugh at Jordan during the game as he fell to the floor trying to make every difficult and spectacular shot. Michael didn’t have teammates that he trusted, and he fell spectacularly hard as a result.
Finally the Bulls improved as Phil Jackson was promoted to head coach, and they got some players around them that Michael had confidence in. The Bulls came of age and got over on the Pistons. Before time ran out of the deciding game that would put the Bulls in the Finals for the first time in it’s team history, Isiah Thomas and a few of his Piston teammates left the bench and proceded to walk off the court. The Pistons were two time champions and obviously that hurt. But the reason that Isiah led his crew to walk was his utter hatred and disrespect of Michael Jordan. Thomas hated Jordan since Michael’s rookie year when he was adorned with so many accolades before he accomplished anything. Jordan had the Nike contract, his own clothes etc. Thomas is known for freezing Jordan out of his first All Star game by making sure no one passed him the ball. The Piston’s leaving the court was a Bad Boy “F- YOU!” to the Bulls. They didn’t want to shake their hands since the tables turned.
This is where Thomas was a hypocrite:
1) He didn’t have a problem with shaking hands when they were bouncing the Bulls from the playoffs the previous years.
2) The Pistons were in the same position as the Bulls a few years earlier when the Celtics would make them cry by sending them home every spring. Remember, “Bird steals the pass, underneath to DJ for a layup – Celtics lead.”
When the Pistons finally got over on the Celtics, I clearly remember Hall of Fame forward Kevin McHale grabbing Thomas and looking into his eys telling him how it was Thomas’ time, that he earned it, and to finish the job by becoming a champion against the Lakers. Thomas listened and I could tell he appreciated the gesture. Thomas did not extend Jordan the same courtesy. He punked out and cowardly walked out before time even expired because it was a personal thing with Jordan. He just couldn’t be pro enough to give props where they were due.
What does this have to do with LeBron? He essentially walked out on the Magic for the same basic reason. He has no respect for the Orlando Magic and he fully expected to win that series. Look at the Magic’s roster. Sure you have Dwight Howard, but after that it’s Hedo, Lewis, Alston, etc. The Magic are an awkward herkey jerkey team that presented some serious match up problems for the Cavs. They shoot threes like a renegade bunch of rebellious youths. Many times they are undisciplined and seem ready to implode at any moment. And yet they got it done against the Celtics and then the Cavs who had the best record in the league. I can tell you that if the Celtics had knocked the Cavs out of the playoffs like they did last year, LeBron would have shaken hands because he would not have dissed Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. When he looked at the Magic roster, there were no guys he had enough respect for to give them props. He feels they are beneath him as a unit and that they should not have messed up his dream matchup against Kobe in this year’s Finals. That is the real deal.
Now where LeBron doesn’t get it – (and he is still young at the tender age of 24) is that “to whom much is given much is required.” He has a following with the whole “Witness” campaign, the chalk thrown in the air, the puppet commercials etc. and kids look up to him. What he does in defeat is just as important as how he conducts himself in victory. And even if he walked off the court the way he did out of sheer anger and frustration, the best thing he could have done upon reflection is to own it by saying, “I got caught up in the moment. I should have been a bigger man and shown better sportsmanship. That will not happen again.”
LeBron say’s he’s a winner. He certainly has won more than he’s lost on the court. But his immediate “exit stage left” act was as immature an act as you’ll see from a superstar of his calibur.