LeBron James didn’t congratulate the winning Magic or speak to the media after Cleveland was eliminated Saturday night. This was neither gracious nor professional from someone who takes pains to be both. But I’m willing to give him a pass.
Nobody in the NBA — maybe nobody in the history of the NBA — has done more to lift his team than LBJ, and LeBron and his Cavs and all of Cleveland had reason to believe this was finally the year. Turned out the team wasn’t as good as the regular season and the first two playoff rounds made it seem. Turned out the Magic was simply better. (Indeed, Orlando came within one second of sweeping the No. 1 seed.)
Let’s say LeBron had addressed the press after Game 6. The questions wouldn’t have been about his performance — he’d been great — but about those around him and whether or not he can win a title with this supporting cast. And that’s a slippery slope. Indeed, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar complained to reporters as his Milwaukee Bucks were losing the 1974 finals to Boston, “You’re trying to get me to say my teammates aren’t any good.”
LeBron finally spoke in Cleveland on Sunday and was diplomatic, which he might not have in the been in the immediate aftermath. He might have done as Peyton Manning did after the top-seeded Colts lost to Pittsburgh in the 2006 playoffs — faulted others and made himself seem both snooty and petty in the process.
Being a media person myself, I’m never thrilled when someone deigns not to share his thoughts. But this one I understand. He and his franchise were better served by letting LeBron sleep on it.