When 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
Precisely. 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.