Not saying LeBron James was right … but I understand

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.

112 comments Add your comment

Dr. Warren

June 1st, 2009
11:21 am

Well-said. The guy cannot stand losing. It’s much more than a job to him–it’s his life. Can the same be said about a few of our inconsistent Hawks? (Or for that matter, most Atlanta athletes over the years?)

Kevin

June 1st, 2009
11:25 am

Thanks Mark for some common sense. Most of the people that are criticizing LeBron either disliked him to begin with or don’t like the NBA period.

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2009
11:28 am

It’s pretty hard not to like LeBron. He’s a good guy who respects the game. And he is, I say again, the second-best player I’ve ever seen.

Magic Fanny

June 1st, 2009
11:29 am

Sorry, there’s NO EXCUSE for being so selfish and not congratulating the winning team. It’s called SPORTSMANSHIP, no matter what he claims. It’s one thing not to talk to the press, but a completely different matter not to be a good sport and shake the hands of those who JUST BEAT YOU! James has permanently lost my respect, no matter what he does from this point on. He just proved he’s not a MAN, but a big CRYBABY with NO CLASS. A man’s character is defined in how he handles adversity, not his successes, and king James failed the test, big time!

Reid Adair

June 1st, 2009
11:29 am

It became apparent early on in this series that, with the exception of LeBron James, the Cavaliers were outmatched at every position. Were it not for a miraculous shot by James in game two, it would have been a sweep.

I can understand not speaking to the media, but I’m not sure I can understand not congratulating the Magic.

Bob

June 1st, 2009
11:31 am

Big baby also plays for Cleveland Poor sport.

Kevin

June 1st, 2009
11:35 am

Hey Magic Fanny,

I’ll be waiting to see Howard give Kobe the congratulatory handshake with his Eddie Murphy smile when that series is over.

spectator

June 1st, 2009
11:35 am

James referred to himself as a “winner”…what has he “won”?

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2009
11:37 am

He has won the hearts of all those in that great American city that is Cleveland, Ohio.

P. Canelli

June 1st, 2009
11:40 am

Mark that’s shameful that you give him a pass. From Tee-ball to professional sports, you have to support sportsmanship. His comments were entirely selfish. I don’t respect him at all for what he said (neither does ANY media outlet, for that matter).

XcentricRecluse

June 1st, 2009
11:41 am

Why do I suspect that although Magic Fanny asserts that he knows something about winning and losing, the closest he’s ever come to winning or losing a championship game is his couch with his beloved remote.

Jim

June 1st, 2009
11:43 am

LeBron James can correct all this by publicly admitting that he was wrong in not congratulating the Magic. E-mailing Dwight Howard does nothing to solve the snubbing he gave the rest of the Magic. I understand, as does anyone, when someone makes a mistake. But continuing to justify the mistake only makes him seem more unsportsmanlike. And the more of you sports writhers that try to ease his pain by excusing his misbehavior, the more justified he feels. He may be the greatest player on the planet (although I think at least 4 ohers are clearly better) but I wouldn’t want my son watching him play if his character isn’t above reproach. By the way, I know you’re young, but Wilt Chamberlain certainly carried his Philly teams much more than LeBron carries his. And have we forgotten Oscar Robertson who averaged a triple double for his career? And what about Bill Russel who had all those championship rings? And of course there’s Mr. Jordan who did a double 3-peat, and I hate to say that because I’m a huge Pistons fan. I would even rate Dominque, who literally changed the game, above where LeBron is right now. All this could be changed in a few years of course, but it’s still too early to give him his 2nd crown. As I said, this whole thing would immediately blow over if LeBron would just apologize and make it right instead of trying to justify it.

NBA Fan

June 1st, 2009
11:44 am

Lebron James showed his true colors: no class, no sportsmanship, and a poor loser. A pathetic excuse for sportsmanship, and he’s the real loser here, not his team.

John Smith

June 1st, 2009
11:47 am

Every one of you are frauds and hypocrites. You want to jump on the bandwagon and beat on LBJ. He’s human and he makes mistakes. I guarantee there is at least ten episodes in everyone of your lives where you were not sportsmanlike. He didn’t shake hands or answer questions. Big deal. There is no pattern of history of unsportsmanlike conduct from him. Until there is I won’t criticize him, or you.

Scott

June 1st, 2009
11:59 am

Finally, someone with some common sense regarding this matter. Thank you, Mr. Bradley! You make a great point about the questions he’d face in a post-game press conference. I’d say he showed sportsmanship by NOT talking to the media.

What’s LeBron going to do, hang out on the court for 10 minutes a few feet from the other team’s jubilant fans, one of which might think it’s OK to do something to the best player in the NBA?

Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser. — Vince Lombardi

Chris

June 1st, 2009
12:11 pm

Good call John Smith. I can’t beleive how big of a deal everyone is making about him not shaking hands with Magic. Or the amount of utter bias on the part of Magic Fanny. Should he have shook hands? Probably. But you guys are saying he lacks class or sportsmanship! Over one instance of not shaking hands? Gimme a break. LeBron is one of the classiest superstars in sports today. Know one should castigate him for not shaking hands in a moment of sheer frustration.

D-Knock

June 1st, 2009
12:14 pm

The way LeBron handled this lose was inexcusable …Nobody from Detroit or Atlanta stomped off the court or refused to speak to the media; and Cleveland flat out embarrassed those two. I get it, no body likes to lose, but at the same time no body likes to be humiliated and that’s what I saw when he along with his team mates were jumping up and down on the sideline in the process of blowing out the Pistons and Hawks. LeBron needs to realize that a Nike backed ad doesn’t guarantee you a trip to the finals.

Bo

June 1st, 2009
12:16 pm

Is it too much to ask of him to shake the hands of Soulja Boy and the rest of the Magic?

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2009
12:20 pm

LeBron said yesterday he doesn’t like shaking somebody’s hand after he loses. He probably does need to get over that part. He’ll lose a few more games before he’s done, I’ll wager. Everybody loses sometimes.

Scott

June 1st, 2009
12:20 pm

He may have been leery of shaking Ron Jeremy’s hand. Who know where it’s been?

frankie_machine

June 1st, 2009
12:24 pm

Jim: Bringing up Wilt Chamerberlain, who proudly claimed to have slept with 2000 women, in a discussion of character is interesting. You seem to be fine with holding him up as a role model, yet you’ll prohibit your son from watching James play because he didn’t shake an opponent’s hand. So displaying one instance of bad judgment on the court is reprehensible, but having sex with any woman you can get (and bragging about it) is showing character above reproach? Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

Herschel Talker

June 1st, 2009
12:28 pm

“Not saying LeBron James was right … but I understand”

Well said, Mark. Keep up the great writing!

allenlaw

June 1st, 2009
12:32 pm

This is one of those stories that illustrates the difference between fans and players. We get all bent out of shape about petty things. They do this for a living. This is not Little League (where we are trying to instill good sportsmanship) or hockey (where there is a tradition of the handshake). This is Professional Basketball. A great player played a great series and his team lost, and people want to talka about “did he shake hands with the winners.” Give me a break.
As for whether he “spoke to Howard” or texted him, I could not care less. Their relationship is not about what LeBron does on TV but is between them. Let it go.

wxwax

June 1st, 2009
12:32 pm

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury news had an interesting take.

In his blog he speculates that since LeBron knows that his every movie will be dissected, that LeBron stomping out was a considered, strategic play.

The intent? To increase the pressure the Cavs front office to improve the roster. LeBron could be LeGone after next year, so the last thing the LeCavs want is an unhappy star stud.

Kaz

June 1st, 2009
12:42 pm

While I understand, that does not mean that it is acceptable. MJ would not do that. At some point, we are going to have to be tough on LBJ in order to develop him. Coddling him is what will keep him from growing up. MJ’s time at UNC and his strong upbringing is what made him such a excellent player and leader. That is what separates MJ from LBJ. So he is just going to have to learn now.

Will

June 1st, 2009
12:46 pm

The “can’t stand losing” excuse is the weak. Unless your name is Bill Russell you’re going to finish more seasons with failure than success. Magic Johnson won 5 rings, meaning he had 7 seasons end like Lebron’s season just ended. How many years did Michael Jordan have to carry inferior teams that got bounced in the playoffs?

If you want to call yourself “King James” and tattoo “Chosen 1″ on your back, if you want to accept all the props the media slaps on you, then you have to accept the other side as well.

Lebron needed to man up and not act like a little punk (actually would’ve preferred to use a word that rhymes with “witch”).

Jimv

June 1st, 2009
12:50 pm

Mark-I’d like your take on where LeBron goes next. Everyone says the Knicks, but that’s more players to carry and more titles to miss…

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2009
12:53 pm

As fate would have it, I’m writing a little something about NBA superstars even as we speak, JimV, and the cold reality is this: They don’t move often. A team that gets one does everything in its power to keep him, and most times the team succeeds.

A little preview nugget: Of the 15 men who comprise this season’s All-NBA teams, 12 are still playing for the team with which they made their NBA debut. The exceptions are Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol and Chauncey Billups.

So, long story short, I think LeBron will remain a Cavalier.

Scoot

June 1st, 2009
12:54 pm

Who cares!? This is the playoff’s and his, favored, team just got tossed. I have played sports all my life, and sometimes you just don’t want to shake the hands of the team that just spanked you. Boxers do it all the time, frustration sets in and you just want to leave the area ASAP. It really isn’t that big of a deal. As a Suns fan I would never have wanted to see them shake the Spurs hands for constantly handing us our Ars. The only people who really feel this is a big deal are Magic funs. Just like when they got pissed off when a dumb ass kid was courtside and got ran the hell over….like that, I say to this, Get over it.

II-Logical

June 1st, 2009
1:02 pm

Mr.Bradley,good follow up piece-someone needed to say it and you said it well.
On another but related note , there was a nice article in today’s NYT about the Cavaliers’ owner and management that praised their operational savvy.IMJS

BosnianBaller

June 1st, 2009
1:18 pm

LeBron is a punk.D wade did the same exact thing.When LeBron beat the Pistons and Hawks he stuck arond to shake hands but when he loses he’s out.What a punk.Most of these so called superstars nowadays in basketball are garbage like Wade,Pierce,LeBron,Garnett.Not because they cant play but because they are douchebags.

Volman

June 1st, 2009
1:18 pm

Mr. Bradley, I appreciate the blog about this… LeBron was CLASSLESS, however, to not shake hands with the Magic after. He was MORE THAN WILLING to do this after WINNING against Detroit and Atlanta. Give me a break.

I used to like the guy, personally, but with all of the side-antics that he does now..it makes me think of him as a joke. He’s a heck of a basetkball player, but the side stuff has to end…The throwing up the “pixie dust” has to end (at least in OPPOSING TEAMS’ ARENAS). He is NOT bigger than the game… I honestly think he believes that he is.

Again, be a good winner as well as loser. We all know he is “great” at winning and goofing around with his team mates (Blowrenzen Wright to name one of them) but he needs to be able to handle a loss with dignity. That, he did not my friend.

SlimG

June 1st, 2009
1:22 pm

Poor Lebron! He likes the attention of winning but not losing? Give me a break. Losing is part of the game. Show some class. You’ll be perfect in NY.

The guy has no consistent jump shot, remember what the overseas teams did? Let Lebron have as many jumpers as he wants. This guy is a great frontrunner, but what happens when that goes away. Blame your team members. No one complained during the regular season. You got beat. The only way this guy can score is to bull his way to the basket and beg for a foul. Kobe is the best player in the league hands down!

I mean come on, as much as the guy gets paid, he should congratulate the winners and speak to the press. It’s part of the job. What would he say if that had happened to him? Sore losers. You reap what you sow!

NC Braves Fan

June 1st, 2009
1:25 pm

Mark: re your 12:20pm … does LeBron shake the hands of opponents after he wins? If he does, that would seem to be a bit hypocritical in my book.

Volman

June 1st, 2009
1:28 pm

By the way Mr. Bradley, the photo that you posted at the top of the page honestly made my day… No muscle flexing…no pixie dust…no lighting fires…no taking pictures.

Lebron showing his true colors: being a baby. How many two year olds have you seen go to the floor like that when things don’t go their way?

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2009
1:31 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Il-Logical. Also for the link.

Mac

June 1st, 2009
1:33 pm

Now that Lebron’s behavior has made him a disgraced pariah on the order of Barry Bonds and Michael Vick, it’s obvious he cannot continue to play in Cleveland. So, I suggest Rick Sund, in the Spirit of charity, send Solomon Jones, Speedy Claxton, Randolph Morris, Acie Law, Othello Hunter and Thomas Gardner to the Cavaliers to take their shameful problem child Lebron James off their hands.

cliff

June 1st, 2009
1:36 pm

kaz, MJ if you are talking about jordan u should read his books about what he said and thought about his role players on that team “pippen and grant were immature kids” how he hated BJ armstrong and frustrated and angry he got over detroit for beating them in because they’d let jordan do the work and his cast couldnt keep up at that time.
its not right for what lebron did but he did it he’s angry he put soo much into a team this season he burned out the last game and imagine the frustration that when your that good maybe the best in the NBA that even you cant do what jordan did and carry a team into the nba championship. every1 said jordan did it but remember he had a cast better than that of the cavs esp the 3rd 3peat around. when the bulls went 60+ wins they went all the way making it look relatively easy and dominant. i was rooting for the cavs even tho im a bulls fan becausei wanted to see LBJ vs KB(who is a bigger sore loser than LBJ to the point he will blog and cry about every call not for him or his team)and because i sorely felt the loyal cavs fans were finally going to see something good happen to that crappy city. give it another few seasons theyll win 1

Marcus

June 1st, 2009
1:45 pm

MB,
as point of reference or for next Buzz:
ESPN’s Chad Ford ranks top 13 PGs based on recently-concluded NBA draft combine. I guess this is a first for the NBA (hadn’t been keeping up) but it sounds similar to NFL style workouts.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/draft2009/columns/story?columnist=ford_chad&page=PreDraftTour-090601

As far as LeBron, he’s gotta take the good with the bad, esp. as the face of the franchise/league, and media darling. All will be forgiven, but he has to understand the ramifications beyond just losing his chance for the Finals.

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2009
1:55 pm

That’s a great one, Marcus. I’m using that link at some point, and I’ll give you credit. Thanks much.

freshd

June 1st, 2009
2:05 pm

I think LEBRON didnt shake hands and attend the press conference because he had a party to attend in the ATL. I said it last week about CLEVELAND joking and clowning on the bench against the HAWKS and PISTONS. Ray Allen called the CAVS out about the same thing. Now the joke is on LEE BRON and the JAMES GANG. Oh yeah, I AM A WITNESS!

Dr. Warren

June 1st, 2009
2:14 pm

Mark, if LeBron is the second best player you’ve “seen,” who did you NOT see on TV or in person, say post-1969, who might have been better than LeBron? (And are you sure you’re ready to put him above Dr. J, Magic, Bird, Karl Malone, Olajuwan, Shaq, and Duncan so soon?)

Dr. Warren

June 1st, 2009
2:16 pm

Not to mention Kareem.

Mitch Evans

June 1st, 2009
2:18 pm

Forget not speaking to the media. He made himself look very bad by just walking off the court (a la Isiah Thomas after the Bulls finally beat the Pistons)and not shaking hands and giving kudos to Dwight Howard and the rest of the Magic. Extremely surprising that he didn’t do it after all of the class he has shown since the first day he became an NBA player. You’d expect something like that from others, but not him.

calico

June 1st, 2009
2:25 pm

Congrats to Mr. Howard on going 2 the finals i salute you represent Atlanta well and Josh Smith i hope seeing your boy Mr. Howard in the finals makes you hungry next season and if you raise your game to the next level 20 & 10 and good defense this will be your team. Mr. Sund dont blow this draft and if we draft a point he has to be at least 6′0.

Lets Go Hawks!!!!

Dawgs2009

June 1st, 2009
2:25 pm

Thank GOD we don’t have to endure another couple of weeks of his majesty. I have had all I can handle of the LeBron James show. It was so nice to watch the Cavs get humiliated by the Magic, especially after watching the series with the Hawks.

Dawgs2009

June 1st, 2009
2:26 pm

Enter your comments here

freshd

June 1st, 2009
2:28 pm

Lebron has pulled this stunt before, a couple of years back when he walked off the court before a game ended. Dont get me wrong, he is a great baller but, he has been anointed the savior, the chosen one, and THE KING. To whom much is given, much is expected. SHOW A LITTLE CLASS
A lot of young players look up to him.

Barry

June 1st, 2009
2:44 pm

Bradley, I always like your analysis, but this one “NOT”. LeBron showed total unsportsmanship. He played in little league and high school and he knows the process of “shaking your opponents hand” after a game: Win or Lose. In this case, he lost on national T.V., at the professional level, and showed a childish behavior unbecoming of someone who is suppose to the “The Great Le Bron” of the NBA. What does that say to your children and other young folks about “SPORTSMANSHIP” in the game of sports, especially with him at this level. This guy has set a very “BAD EXAMPLE’ and there is “NO EXCUSE!”.

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
This is a SECRET from a SPORTS FAN!! TELL EVERYBODY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Blast

June 1st, 2009
2:47 pm

LeBron walking off the court, not congratulating the Magic and going straight to the plane is NOT understandable and is NOT acceptable. It was poor showmanship, plain and simple. All he had to do was dap Howard and another Magic player, and that would have been the end of it. Y’all remember the game in Atlanta two seasons ago when the Hawks beat Cleveland and LeBron walked off the court even before the final buzzer sounded? We seem to have a pattern here. Yeah, nobody likes to lose, but we can’t win in every single thing we do in life. Being matured is all about taking the knocks of life as they come. Good or bad.

Also, when the Cavs were beating up on the Hawks and Pistons, we still remember LeBron, Lorenzo Wright (who thought he would get a free ring this year) and the rest of the Cavs just plain laughing it up by courtside, making such obvious fun of the Hawks, that it was embarassing to witness. So the Cavs can laugh when they are dominating other teams but they sulk when they get beat? Cleveland was lucky to win a game in the East finals. Orlando should have swept them. Cleveland should go fishing for summer with this thought in their heads. Orlando Magic is simply a better team than them. Orlando had a much more difficult road to get to the East finals than the Cavs did. So while Cleveland was getting lost in their own mock superiority because they swept the first two rounds, Orlando was getting it’s teeth cut dealing with adversity, playing Philly, and beating the World champions in 7 on the road. They deserve all the credit they get.

Go Magic, Go!