Before the finals started, David Stern addressed the media and discussed LeBron James and how James apologized for his actions. He was fined $25,000. Read it and view it here.
The biggest, baddest, fastest player in the NBA — who happens to be the league’s MVP — is all sour grapes because he can’t win an NBA championship. And in the the throes of losing, tasting defeat, and generally getting his feelings hurt, LeBron James has forgotten what it feels like to be a man and say “good game” while looking his triumphant opponents in the eye.
There is a cultural shift going on in the NBA of wussified, whiny and flat out disrespectful multi-millionaires running exceedingly rampant and carefree. And if the NBA’s caretaker, David Stern, is even slightly concerned (which he is), he would rethink not punishing James for leaving the court without congratulating the Orlando Magic and without speaking to the media.
Forget the media, he should have at least shook hands with the Magic.
Within hours of this debacle, the questioning and rumors poured in from all four corners of the country. How can King James be the face of the league if he can’t be a good sportsman? There is serious concern that this top-tier athlete, who is possibly bigger than the sport itself with crossover appeal into pop culture, is an absolutely atrocious role model for amateur players. Why? Because at the height of his popularity, his most-watched moment and the game’s most-watched moment, he is suddenly a classless character.
After emerging from his own world of self-pity and reflection, he didn’t help his cause. In his words:
“It’s hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them,” he said. “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.”
He is a poor sport. He just defined bad sportsmanship. He just defined what it means to be a playground wussy.
I can rant, I can scream, and I can smack around James in this space all I want, but it will all go to waste if folks don’t turn to their youngsters, their teammates and their own players, and say point-blankly, “James is wrong.”
Humility is necessary in sports. It’s actually what makes this section I write in great. The greatest lesson any prep, Little League or AAU coach can teach their players is a simple one: Be gracious when you win and when you lose.
It’s a form of “do unto others as those would do unto you.” This little golden nugget is what puts character in the backbones of those that play sports. Kids learn teamwork, how to work hard, focus, and how to deal with failure. Again, it’s all character building.
For someone like James, who is a huge role model for his own peers, to be at odds with the basics is downright blasphemous on these holy pages. It screams unconstitutional in terms of sportsmanship. It screams of hypocrisy for the man willing to take the gracious nods of greatness and defiantly ignore its responsibilities.
That’s why I’m so sickened. This man needs to be corrected. He needs to sit at home, watch the NBA Finals, and see how true champions play.
It’s why he’s not ready for greatness.
Next time you lose a game, no matter how hotly contested, turn to your competitor and say “good game.” Respect flows in the heat of competition, but it is cemented when the battle is over.
Don’t screw with that mojo.
Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in The Union.