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Lebron James: King, or really just the Petulant Prince?

Phil on June 3, 2009 at 2:28 pm

This is a tale of two cities.  These two cities could not have been more different. One is a fairy book story filled with hope, the other a nightmare of a horror story, the likes of which this city continues to live. Cleveland is known for its sports failures. But in a city where these sports failures range from the expected to the heart-breaking, it’s amazing that a sore loser is what really stands out.

There’s a few tenants in sports that Americans cherish. The purity of the sport, the thrill of the competition and finally the camaraderie of teammates and opponents otherwise known as sportsmanship. Lost amongst the early headlines about the Orlando Magic’s surprising series victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers is the one where the King is now a Petulant Prince. Lebron James at the end of the game simply gathered his things and stormed off the court without speaking to any of the players or coaches on either side. He didn’t shake the opponent’s hands nor did he offer any congratulatory words towards the Magic. He further perpetuated the childish behavior by skipping out on the post game media obligations that all players must attend to. It is understandable that our competitive nature somethings overtakes our emotions. It is another for a supposed “King” to be reduced to that of a childish sore loser who takes his toys and runs off when things don’t go his way. James has been revered and respected, even touted as arguably the best overall player in the NBA today. Yet it is with actions like this that we see he should neither be revered or respected yet. What does it tell our youth today about how to act as an athlete?

As if this wasn’t enough, the next day, Lebron James in a press conference, has the audacity to say that, “It’s not being a poor sport or anything like that…”  He further expounds, “If somebody beats you up, you’re not going to congratulate them. It doesn’t make sense for me to go over and shake somebody’s hand.” Youth seems to be an excuse that many have placed as the reasoning for his actions. Yet, this isn’t his first season in the NBA. He was willing to stay on the court and see to it that the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks all stayed to congratulate him on his victories. He’s played in 5 seasons which translates to well over 400 games. You’re telling me that in all those games, he’s never learned that shaking the winning players hands is part of good sportsmanship?

Lebron James has got to learn to grow up through this. From what we take of his press conference, he hasn’t fully grown up yet. But he must learn how to be a complete player, and that does mean his sense of sportsmanship as well. What compounds the problem with James is that the NBA refuses to act consistently. On Monday, NBA Spokesperson Tim Frank told 1050 ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand that James would not be fined, adding, “We haven’t had any issues with him before at all.” There are a few problems with this as first of all, a few players in the past have been fined for exactly such an incident. Both Shaq and Wade come to mind. So there is already precedent for this. Secondly, since when is previous behavior a deciding factor for whether or not a player gets punished for their actions. If we take this line of reasoning, then a player who has never been involved in any problematic situations before shouldn’t be suspended for throwing a punch at another player. After all… he’s never been a problem before.

The NBA is inconsistent because it needs its stars like Lebron James more than its stars need the NBA. And Lebron knows this. As long as the NBA is unwilling to be the firm hand of justice, then its players specifically Lebron James will continue to be treated like a King, when in fact, he’s no more than a petulant prince that needs to put his ego aside, stop thinking only of himself and grow up.

[Editor's Note: Phil is a friend of mine who also happens to be a big (as in huge) sports fan. I've asked if he would be interested in chiming in with some sports related stories and he agreed. Welcome, Phil!]

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