Dunked On: Final Thoughts on the Confiscated LeBron James Skills Academy Tapes

yao-ming-dunks-on-lebron-jamesWhen I had first read the CBS report that we discussed earlier this week, I knew that it was going to be a pretty big story.  After all, that was the crux of my original thoughts.  LeBron’s a big deal, like it or not.  While a lot of Clevelanders (both on here and 850AM) feel that it is essentially a non-story, ESPN and the rest of the blogesphere have been riding the story very hard all week long.

I thought about addressing the story again yesterday, but felt that it may be better to give it another 24 hours as we all tend to get a bit myopic at times about our players.  Plus, as with any story that gets covered at the level of this whole Skills Academy, waiting is usually the best idea as more details – you know, like the other side of the story – tend to come out. 

It took a few days, but the buzz may in fact be dying down; at least a little.  It was reported that this whole situation had reached the top 25 on Google trends.  With a player as transcendent as James, that wasn’t too surprising.  What was a bit surprising was the reactions of bloggers everywhere before the entire story even came out.  Cleveland Frowns did an excellent recap of opinions – and remember, this is all before Nike’s representatives even got a word in edgewise.

Of all of the name-calling and piling on, only a select few of those that took first crack actually decided to discuss the other side as well; one of which was TSN’s Chris Littman:

“This would seem to fly smack in the face of what was written and said on CBS earlier in the day on Wednesday.”

Smack in the face of what was written, but even more so regarding what was perceived to have happen.  A quick listen to the radio or a brief search among blogs, and you would have the impression that once Jordan Crawford dunked on LeBron James, the King stopped play and quickly ran over to his “second dad” to have the footage confiscated.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth.  In one of the first interviews that occurred post dunk, the game that featured said two-hand slam was played to the finish – with James’ team (Tarence Kinsey, Danny Green and Christian Eyenga as teammates) actually winning.  They then played another game to the finish, and went to drink water.  It was after this time that Lynn Merritt allegedly asked for the tapes from the two individuals that had recorded the off-record game. 

But why would he want them?  Isn’t it their right to tape whatever they’d like as a member of the media?  Not so fast.  Per Henry Abbott:

What he didn’t know, and what he couldn’t have known, is what veteran reporters confirm is generally understood: When NBA players scrimmage in the summer, it’s off the record.

The reason for this lies in the fact that players are not in NBA shape and footage of pick-up games in the offseason is not indicative of their respective talent levels.  Especially someone like James who has recently had surgery to remove a benign growth from his mouth.  Couple that with actually getting to go on vacation after a full season of basketball that followed the Olympics and there’s a decent chance that No. 23 isn’t in peak condition. 

A recent post on Twitter was shared by Dan Steinbergas a mini follow-up on the dunk.  This comes from Malcolm Delaney, a DC-area basketball player who happened to be at the Academy:

Delaney: its was bad but i think its a bigger deal because they confiscated the tapes

courtney-lee-dunks-on-lebron-james-game-3aPrecisely.  Because Nike confiscated tapes of off-season pick-up play; something that was not supposed to be filmed.  But in today’s world, everyone feels that they are entitled to see, hear, and touch anything that they want.  Ten years ago, and it is simply an “oh well, wish I could have been there.”  But today, especially when it comes to LeBron James, it’s “I want I want I want, and I’ll e-bash anything and everyone who stands in my way.” 

“Your silence is deafening, King James.”  Really?  He has to have a reply?  Why not let the Crawford kid have his moment?  Let him get Xavier photoshpopped on to his chest – it’s something I bet he can’t wait to have happen for real this upcoming year.  What can LeBron actually say that would make everyone feel better?  If he stood by Nike, he would be accused of playing the company line.  If he said that the dunk was not as big of a deal, as described above by Malcolm Delaney, he would be accused of not giving Jordan Crawford enough credit.  Or would have been the subject to even more name-calling.  Would he have to embellish and make it look like he was Frederic Weis?  Anything short of that, and he’s a “jerk.”

Did James make the wrong call by bailing on his post-game interview after the eastern conference finals?  Yes.  It’s his job to speak with the media following a game; this is why he was fined.  But does he have the obligation to retort with an on-camera reaction to something that happened in his offseason Skills Academy?  Hardly.  He does not owe anyone any sort of soundbite in the off-season unless it is in regard to team-related activities.  Isn’t that why it’s called the offseason? 

As with most viral incidents, this too will pass.  And while we will never get all of those that jumped on initially to discuss the Nike side of things, I’m officially with the rest of you who have deemed this a non-issue.  I will stick by my original assessment of “Bad PR,” but it is nothing more than that.

If it is any consolation, the Google trends have corrected for the most part, focusing on more important issues.  In fact, as of this post, #4 on the list is the results of last night’s So You Think You Can Dance.  Caitlin and Philip’s exit is infinitely more important than tapes that were not anyone’s right to see in the first place.

  • Ben

    It’s not a big deal, or rather it only stands out because Lebron usually comes across as good natured and humble even, in his own top-of-the-world way. It would have been nice to let the kid youtube the video, once it was taken. But it’s not exactly a DUI, a warning to snitches (maybe Carmelo should take a lesson about letting video get out), or even a messy divorce.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    My wife appreciates the SYTYCD reference.

  • ben

    I don’t think Phillip should have been sent home.

  • RobGoBlue

    Much ado about nothing.

  • Swig

    By staying quiet, people talk about it more, which is also what LeBron wants (people talking about him).

  • Nate

    Wow, a cleveland sports blog sticking up for “The King”….shocking

  • jb

    The deal here is that the reporter who recorded the event went out and publically said that James spoke to a Nike rep after the game and the tapes were then taken. Getting dunked on is not a big deal. I was front row for Lebron’s rookie league in Orlando when little known Britton Johnsen put one all over the young James. There were Oh’s and Aw’s but that was it. It didn’t even get to SportsCenter. But when you don’t shake hands with the Magic after losing the series, walk around town with LBJ MVP T-shirts and then act like a baby when someone brings you down to the level of mere mortals for one second on a dunk, you are going to be criticized. Without these tapes being taken this hits YouTube and doesn’t touch Googles Top 100 Trends and its forgoten by now. Once he gets over himself and focuses on the game, he has a chance to walk away as the greatest player to ever step on the court. Until then, he is just another prima donna athlete with more potential than he knows what to do with.

  • JK

    My God, this is so annoying.

  • steve

    just go away JB.

    its obvious your opinion of him was shaped long before this incident.

    if all you have to go on is that Lebron skipped ONE press conference after a tough loss and that he likes the fact that he’s MVP then you are really clutching at straws.

    seriously people will make any stretch, regardless of how ridiculous to try and discredit Lebron.

    and how did he “act like a baby?” he’s gotten dunked on way more times than this and he seems to be taking it just fine.

    people who don’t like Lebron seem to be obsessed with sharing their hatred.

  • DK

    how in Gods name is he a prima donna? he didnt do anything…

  • matt

    I’ve seen Nike’s document regarding what is legal and acceptable as far as photography and videotaping during this camp and nowhere does it state that they have a right to confiscate any footage or that it was even illegal.

    Nike made a statement that they took the tapes because people are not allowed to film scrimmages that occur “after-hours.” Problem is, this game didn’t take place after-hours and was within the scheduled time of the camp.

    Also, LBJ didn’t just say something randomly to the director of the camp, he pulled him aside while in the middle of a conversation with the photographer who took the footage. It was immediately after that that the tape was demanded.

    Furthermore, the photographer claims that they told him they just needed to borrow the tape for the night, yet when he tried to get it the next day, they gave him the runaround and he obviously has not gotten it back yet.

    I don’t know why Cleveland fans don’t get why people outside of King James’s domain think this is an issue. I mean with all the ridiculous t-shirts (LBJ/MVP, Check My $tats, etc), the “I’m a winner” crap and now this, I’d imagine it’s becoming increasingly difficult for any rational person to keep defending LeBron.

    On the other hand, maybe now you’re getting a taste of the kind of crap that Kobe fans have had to deal with from haters for years.

  • Swig

    I know more than a few people who don’t even follow basketball casually and have this prima donna opinion of LeBron. Some are even from the Akron/Canton area. I think it’s because basketball was basically all prima donna’s through the 90s, early 2000s.

    One thing I really liked about last season was the changing of this perception. As more and more people slowly jumped on the bandwagon they started to notice how much he cares about the people around him.

    I think there are still a ton of sports “fans” who only listen to talk radio where the old DJs are spewing ideas that were common place years ago, but have been dis-proven over and over again.

  • Swig

    #13. LeBron didn’t rape anyone. So much for your argument.

    How do you go about defending someone who is married and has AT BEST questionable sexual relations with a 19 yr old?

  • Swig

    Doh, that was @11.

    /done repeat posting

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    The best part of this piece IMO is all the talk regarding our sense of entitlement to see a video of LBJ getting dunked on. Why do we have to see it? Because it’s there.

    But because a summer camp video was taken away, LBJ is a turd in the eyes of a lot of people.

    Seems that LeBron is the new Kobe.

  • Ben

    Another angle nobody mentions: Youtube has surprisingly sparse footage from these summer camps. They go on all the time, and which kid wouldn’t post a video of himself and Lebron or Kobe? It seems like practice videos really don’t get out much.

  • Scotty

    @11 – Can you cite any respectable sources for any of that?

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    “Nike made a statement that they took the tapes because people are not allowed to film scrimmages that occur “after-hours.” Problem is, this game didn’t take place after-hours and was within the scheduled time of the camp.”

    Completely false. It was an after-hours event between he and his counselors.

    “Also, LBJ didn’t just say something randomly to the director of the camp, he pulled him aside while in the middle of a conversation with the photographer who took the footage. It was immediately after that that the tape was demanded.”

    LBJ IS the director of the camp. It’s his Academy. The person he spoke with was Lynn Merritt, from Nike. Again, this was after the games were over – not “in the middle” of anything.

  • matt


    From Ryan Miller’s blog.

    “Nike’s response was the game was not “after-hours”, it was during the regularly scheduled “College Workout #3″ portion of the LeBron James Skills Academy. The session ran from 8:30-10:15 on Monday night and the filming took place during that designated time slot. I checked with media relations earlier in the day to go over rules and regulations for filming and was cleared to film all day. There is no mention of a video policy in Nike’s media guidelines.”

  • matt

    Sorry for the double post, don’t know where this comment went the first time.

    (WFNY note- the filter caught it because of all the links within.)


    I’m not talking about the adultery. Of course there’s no defending Kobe for that. What he did was flat out wrong.
    On the other hand I think some go a little too far in calling him a rapist when that woman was clearly just trying to extort him for some cash after a clearly consensual sexual encounter.
    I’m more referring to those who try to discount Kobe’s accomplishments simply calling him a ball-hog or a selfish teammate using incidents as meaningless as this one and blowing them way out of proportion.


    From Henry Abbott’s TrueHoop.

    Nike’s media policies

    Ryan Miller’s blog (the photographer in question)

  • Zwig

    (Edited by WFNY: No dice on the name-calling)

  • feel kollins

    who cares? this is just fodder for the haters to split hairs over. lebron is a pro athlete so his name is made or broken on an nba court. end of story. it’s within his right to control his image the same way that the nba or any other mega corporation wants to control theirs. for all we know this reporter could have been asked numerous times not to film and he’s just trying to make a story out of this cause he’s a dumbass. do you seriously think that any player who puts up the kind of numbers lebron does year after year gives a crap about one measly dunk during a scrimmage? get a life.

  • frenchy

    i think Nike should show the dunk not all of the games but just the dunk(maybe they could use it in an ad…)

  • Ike

    I don’t think it’s a big deal either but James and Nike had to know it would be blown out of proportion when they took the tapes.Regardless of when the tapes were taken, from what I understand, the guys with the cameras had been there all day,filming with no problem. It just seems kinda fishy that filming was all of a sudden an issue.In my opinion,even though it’s a non-issue, Nike and James made this a big deal by taking the tapes.

  • matt

    @ 22

    Agree that this is pretty much a meaningless issue and in no way affects Lebron’s legacy on the court. He’s clearly one of the greatest to ever play the game and on one can dispute that.

    Still, I’d disagree with your statement that it’s his right to control his image. With that logic, it makes it seem as if any of those players could have tried to get the tapes themselves had there been unfavorable footage. It’s not like any of the media members there were blackmailing Lebron or making false accusations and claims about him, they were just taking video and notes. I think we can also be pretty sure that no one had asked them not to film earlier. Miller himself mentioned that in his blog and while I know that isn’t an acceptable source for some of you, don’t you think it would be logical for someone to come out and say that they had asked him to stop filming beforehand? As it stands, that’s not even a point of contention.