Putting the King together again

Published 10:01 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2009

With Orlando’s upset win over Cleveland and LeBron James this weekend, King James left the court without the customary post-game handshake and congrats to the opponent. He then snubbed the post-game press conference.

According to an ESPN report and an interview with NBA commissioner David Stern on ESPN Radio, Stern wants to meet with James, primarily to discuss his refusal to talk to the media.

Good for the commish for wanting to have a chat with James, but he’s got the order of business wrong.


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Sure, should the problem with the press conference come up with the commish and the King, by all means Stern should let his feelings be known. All in all though, an athlete skipping a press conference is something 99 percent of sports fans won’t care about 30 seconds after they read the story or see SportsCenter.

For that matter, we journalists sometimes even deserve the silent treatment. As far as I know, James wasn’t sending a message to the press; he was just that devastated about losing. Regardless of LeBron’s reasons, plenty of fans out there would give him a standing ovation for ignoring the press.

Stern and James need to discuss the King’s departure from the court without so much as at least faking a handshake and “good luck” to a couple of Magic players.

In a way it’s too bad, because James’s general reputation is one of the best in pro sports. That’s saying even more in LeBron’s case since he’s been all-world since he was 15 years old, and he’s handled all the attention largely in a mature and humble fashion.

James’ character is such that one incident of poor sportsmanship is probably just an isolated thing and not to be blown too far out of proportion. At the same time, to whom much is given, much is expected.

The NBA is at its high point in the post-Jordan era, in both entertainment value and the perception of the players. Even though he’s gone another season with no title, James is the biggest reason why.

If a megastar like James goes from humble, likeable guy (who just happens to be a 6-foot-9, 270-pound world-class athlete), to become yet another impressive NBA athlete whom you wouldn’t want your kids to emulate, James’ fall would be the whole league’s fall.

James shouldn’t have to apologize to Orlando, although it wouldn’t hurt. Considering the pedestal many fans have placed him on, though, he can’t let it happen again.