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37 Responses to “Layups: How LeBron James Broke the Golden Rule of Sports”
I will say I disagree in the sense that it's not necessary to root for a team or pretend that sports "matter" in order to be entertained by them. However, there are two philosophies that could possibly compel us to invest in basketball, and you could argue that LeBron "ruined" both of them:
1. The primacy of the team as a unit that transcends the sum of its parts. Many times this season, the Heat did not play like the sum of their superstar parts. Not only that, but the way they were put together defied many people's assumptions of "fairness" in the way teams are constructed. Believers in team primacy can't deal with the players controlling their own destinies, with the importance of the player superseding the importance of the organization.
2. The primacy of the individual player as mythic hero. The alternate approach is to exalt the importance of individual basketball brilliance within the framework of the team structure. Players' styles and skills make them standalone entities, but we construct the team concept to produce incentives and allow them to shine in dramatic situations. By not offering his peak production (for whatever reason) in the arbitrarily-designated World Championship round, LeBron violated the implicit understanding between fans and players -- we create the drama, they write the script.
Unmasking the absurdity of both concepts, then explicitly telling us that real life was bigger than the NBA Finals (and a game that he can win even by losing) was perhaps LeBron's cruelest blow of all.
I thought the guy's rant was funny. I know plenty of people were put off by what LeBron said about 'people having to go back to their lives'... I just didn't take it as an offense------maybe because I LIKE my life? Anyway, MY 1st thought when LeBron said that was a little bit like what the rant guy was saying: 'Hey, you don't want to disuade any people who spend money making your industry as lucrative as it is--------from being SO immersed in it'----------just from a business sense.
It would be like: William Shatner-------no matter HOW creeped out he was by 'Trekkies'---------should NEVER intimate to those people that there is something wrong with their devout interest.
Absolutely brilliant! Our sports heroes feed our need for illusion. The low profile silence and humility of John Stockton is far more preferable than the likes of Lebron, Mike Tyson, Terrell Owens and Charles Barkley who shatter my illusions and make me seek other illusions such as religion, drugs or worse yet- progressivism.
I say this as a die-hard, loyal sports fan. Those of us devote such a large amount of emotional energy season after season to our favorite teams + players realize that it isn't rational. To become so emotionally attached to these entities is basically like a drug. I think we justify this because relatively speaking, it's a safe drug with little consequences. The natural highs involved with your team winning a close regular season game, a close playoff game, a playoff series, and ultimately a championship are indescribable. The depression that comes with those rough losses is tough to deal with, because we all know it doesn't really matter, yet can't control the way we feel.
While Lebron didn't quite touch on this in his press conference, it always bothers me when a player will say "this is just basketball." Maybe it's because some players dedicate their life to the sport, that we have this steadfast belief that all players should act this way. All that being said, LeBron needs a damn PR group! He's done nothing but push him self farther and farther into the hole with these comments.
Neil, your comment #1 doesn't make sense. LeBron didn't ruin either of the two concepts that you are claiming he did. He might have damaged them if his team won the series, but he didn't. And in the meantime, the Dallas Mavericks most definitely exemplified both the primacy of a team being better than the sum of its parts and the mythic legacy of Dirk Nowitzki.
LeBron may have unmasked the absurdity of those concepts when it comes to him as an individual (or the 2010-2011 Miami Heat), but he did nothing of the sort to the general precepts.
Well, you're correct that the damage to sports fans' psyches would have been far greater had Miami actually won... But the fact is, they didn't have to win to prove to us that the way teams are constructed isn't as fair and parity-minded as we fans want to believe. And for 2 years now, LeBron has destroyed our notion of how the best player in the world should perform in must-win games. Then, to top it all off, in his presser he further minimized the importance of the game by suggesting that his real-life success transcends his on-court failure.
"While Lebron didn't quite touch on this in his press conference, it always bothers me when a player will say "this is just basketball.""
And he's right. As much as we either make defend/criticize him in the Internet and in the media.
LBJ plays a game for a living, is also good at it, makes millions, and his family is set financially. To us fans from the outside looking in he seems to like himself juuuuuuuust a little bit, but none of us actually truly know the man. He didn't play well in a series; his team also didn't win. He's in his prime of his career and his star teammates are also young. They'll keep playing for a championship and possibly win one, or even several titles as they said they would when they joined the Heat. Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks for their championship run. THE END.
That's it, people. THAT'S the only narrative. The daily articles, LBJ psychoanalysis, venom, vitriol, backlash, Cavs #23 jersey burning, back-and-forth and back again debates between fans and critics, etc. are all extravagant exercises in superficiality.
LeBron is like that annoying guy who's kind of friendly to you but calls you 'amigo' and expects you to laugh whenever he says something and he thinks he's awesome and you're friends, but really you're like "leave me alone man"
I have to wonder: if this is how LeBron James really feels, that basketball is no big deal in the grand scheme of things, then why refuse to congratulate the Orlando Magic back in 2009? Or is this his stance now after going through that fiasco?
David Robinson said that the playoffs have a way of bringing out all your faults. LeBron, it seems, can't just lose: he has to make some sort of a statement. And, while I'm not sympathetic necessarily, I do understand his self-enteredness - his young life has been a parade of ass-kissers, and that sort of thing has got to distort a person's perspective, especially happening in his formative years as it did.
Anon @#12: I think I'd rather decide for myself what the narrative is, thanks.
The same reason the Boston Celtics didn't shake hands with the Heat after the 2nd round? They're athletes? LBJ didn't make that statement because he doesn't care about excelling at his profession (which he does), but he made it to refer to people who obsess over him or ANY athlete as if they are personally offended by their every act. You can say that HE shouldn't care about the people that care, but that doesn't take away from the truth in what he said (which was a response to a reporter's question).
You can definitely choose your narrative Ricardo, no problem to me. I was just giving you the most sane one.
It's good to hear David Robinson mentioned in this discussion. Now there's a guy who's 'winning' at life, and that'd be just as true if the Spurs didn't land Duncan and he doesn't end up with those two rings.
Btw, if this were 1995, the blogosphere would be killing David Robinson.
By performing below his averages in the playoffs, LeBron put himself squarely in Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood, and now we're left once again to grapple with whether it was just bad luck & bad matchups in a small sample size, or if there is something repeatable that causes players like them to underachieve in big games.
It would be so much easier if guys like LeBron and Robinson, owners of 2 of the most impressive non-Jordan statistical regular seasons ever, would just dominate the playoffs as well.
Well, with Bron, the problem was obvious. He stopped going to the rack. There were any number of possible reasons for this. But since he won't divulge, we're left to guess. Maybe one day he'll win a championship and feel its OK to let his guard down (this guard is, btw, the reason he's so terrible at dealing with the media and constantly has to backtrack and revise his statements) and tell his fans and basketball fans the things swirling in his head during his trial and tribulations with Cleveland and Miami. Maybe not.
Maybe it's because Jordan broke me when I was still just a kid. But I learned a valuable lesson watching ALL my favorite players succumb to that asshole season after season - you can't get everything you want. Especially in sports. Stop demanding perfection, and enjoy what's in front of you.
By WS/48 in their first eight seasons, with all due respect to David Robinson (one of my favorite players ever and a classy individual as well), LBJ plays alot closer to his regular season averages, with better playoff peak seasons.
Yeah, Lebron is better than DRob ever was in the postseason.But both of those guys have significant flaws that good defenses could exploit. In the halfcourt, LBJ stands around watching when the ball isn't in his hands. He needs to stay in motion and deign to use his size in the post. He also needs to stop settling for the long fadeaway 3.
DRob was tall, but also skinny, and routinely got out-muscled by smaller players. The same could be said about Kareem, except he had better shooting touch and a polished repertoire of unstoppable low-post moves; DROb (like LBJ) didn't have that, relying on sheer size and explosiveness to score. He got to the line alot, but couldn't be counted on to make a field goal when his team really needed it; in that regard he was the opposite of Hakeem
"Yeah, Lebron is better than DRob ever was in the postseason.But both of those guys have significant flaws that good defenses could exploit."
Well AYC, it's only perceived as a "flaw" when you don't win the title. For a player with such flaws, LBJ is among the top postseason players of his generation (or THE top player) by almost any metric you choose from.
Improvements in his game are always welcome, but they're simply an means to an end - production. I would've loved for the Cavs to get another step up during LBJ's 2009 playoff run, when he basically did whatever he wanted to on the court.
Anon, you like your straw-men, don't you? I didn't say anything about winning titles as the measure of a player. I think it's funny that you put the word flaw in quotes, as if all players aren't flawed. Even Saint Jordan was flawed.
Also, individual production is a means, not an end; the end goal is/should be team success.
That Spurs dynasty was helped by one lock out year, having the dirtiest players in the league(and the officials swallowing their whistles or making horrible calls against Phoenix), and so much more. David Robinson was never clutch... not ever. Great player, but not clutch. Dirk has been clutch before, and he's failed before.
Most great players fail in the playoffs eventually. Kobe got beaten by the Suns who didn't have Amar'e Stoudamire, and was horrible this season against the Mavs. Did he choke? Duncan was obliterated by Dirk last season in the playoffs, but his team won. LeBron is the reason the Heat destroyed the Bulls so really... maybe he froze up realizing they were going to lose. No one could stop Dirk in the 4th quarter, and when Bosh was going well either D-Wade or LeBron would jack up a horrible 3 or run over someone and cry that they didn't get the call.
I understand why Wade would cry, cause in 06 he got every foul imaginary or not called for him but James has had the officials let teams player him differently in the Finals. The Spurs did it, the Celtics did it, and to an extent, the Mavs did it. People hate him more than Michael Vick... how is that balanced? Leopold is sort of right about him, at times you think he's not all bad, but he does something that's just off putting. Deal with it, if he were your good buddy he'd probably be very nice to you.
Gee Kyle, go ahead and make more excuses for the Suns.
Why is it, during that same period when the Suns were routinely tossed out the backdoor by the Spurs, were the Mavericks (2006) and Lakers (2008) able to eliminate the Spurs?
What the hell is your logic based on? The Spurs, with their atrocious NBA Finals TV ratings, were FAVORED by the NBA? The Suns, who played a crowd-pleasing style led by one of the most likeable and relatable MVPs ever, were marked for playoff elimination by the NBA?
The Spurs were helped out "...by so much more"? This sounds like you ran out of reasons but wanted to build the case against, hoping no one would call you on it. Well, I am doing just that: elaborate, please.
And how did the lockout year favor the Spurs over other teams? (This ought to be good)
#21 "Maybe it's because Jordan broke me when I was still just a kid. But I learned a valuable lesson watching ALL my favorite players succumb to that asshole season after season" I go back far enough to remember when that ashole wasn't winning a thing. No one can say that about Bird or Magic. And as to Shaq, he's a disappointment made of the times. If that guy had half of Moses' work ethic he'd own every record there is and 3 or 4 more titles. Kareem said long ago that this is just what would happen. Players wouldn't stay with one team long enough, be motivated enough, or play long enough to make serious runs at records and title numbers. Big money.