Sunday, December 6, 2009
LeBron James - The Chosen Punk
LeBron James is a punk.
Don't let the smiles fool you, don't let the slick Nike advertising campaigns make you think he's got love for the game. On Dec. 4, 2009, LeBron James showed more about his tightly-guarded personality than he's ever shown before.
He's a punk.
That night, playing against the Chicago Bulls, James used his opponents as unwilling dance partners for 48 minutes, dancing during the game, dancing on the sidelines and onto the court during timeouts, smiling into cameras on the sidelines and, eventually, dancing in front of the Bulls bench after a foul in the fourth quarter.
Joakim Noah isn't a punk.
And Joakim Noah let the self-appointed "Chosen One" know that his tremendous lack of respect and professionalism during that game had crossed a line. Noah could be seen firing off at James from the bench as James shot free throws after his post-foul shoulder-shake.
James shot one free throw and then walked over threateningly to confront Noah, who shook his head at James and told him to walk away. First a punk, now a confrontational bully.
After the game, LeBron had a chance to redeem himself and his pristine image and to apologize to the Bulls (and really, the game itself). He also had a chance to let the millions of impressionable kids, who were undoubtedly watching the nationally-televised game, know that being a good teammate, respecting the game, and respecting your opponents are the only things that matter as a professional athlete. He had the chance to tell everyone he was out of line so that 10 years from now we don't have player dance breaks during every timeout. He had a chance to be a role model, to speak out against bad sportsmanship, but his media-created character wore thin.
"It's nothing against the Bulls and it's nothing against Joakim or none of those guys. It's nothing about showboating on a team. I've seen it happen all year. I think he [Noah] was more frustrated about the way he played as an individual. He didn't help his team win."
That's your chosen one, ladies and gentlemen. He disrespects the Bulls during the game and disrespects them after the game, calling out Noah's individual performance like a scolding father.
So what was the media's reaction after the game? I searched, and continue to search, for some sort of backlash about James' disgusting showboating that night, but all ESPN could do was show highlights of his dancing over instrumental hip-hop, reveling in the on- and off-court entertainment the golden boy of the NBA provides us lowly peons. The only person who said anything negative was legendary coach and broadcaster Hubie Brown, who was announcing the game. When asked if James' dancing and camera-mugging had crossed a line, Brown responded, "It just shows a real lack of professionalism and disrespect for the other team."
So where was the fine? Where was the suspension? Where was the outcry?
There will never be one for LeBron James, because David Stern supports and coddles this new "entertainment-first" league. Twenty years ago, in a league filled with tough-minded players and win-at-all-costs professionals, behavior like that would be handled internally. Charles Oakley would've put LeBron James on his back with a hacksaw forearm. Isiah Thomas would've undercut him on a fast-break layup. Larry Bird probably would've punched him in the face. There was respect on the court, not only for the other players, but for the game itself. There were unspoken rules, invisible lines that players, no matter how good, couldn't cross without facing the repercussions of their peers. But David Stern destroyed that league and built a new one, a Sodom and Gomorrah of bad basketball and insulting on-court values, propped up by the individual stardom of a player who hasn't won a championship and tattooed "Chosen-1" on his own back.
Forget passing, forget fundamentals, forget teamwork and professionalism, let's just throw Dr. Dre on arena sound systems and let the players dance away. It's sickening.
And for one night, I was thrilled to see someone say, "Enough is enough."
Thank you, Joakim Noah.