Every once in a while you read something so outlandish and so bizarre that you just feel compelled to respond. Generally, when I read something so petty, it comes from someone relatively unknown who is trying to make a name for themselves, or else from someone who is a well-known contrarian who writes inflammatory pieces as a career. So I was beyond shocked when I read this from Ball Don’t Lie’s Kelly Dwyer.
KD is without question one of the small handful of best basketball writers out there. He has razor sharp analysis and an uncanny ability to notice the little things that are so easy to miss when watching the game. Beyond that, he’s a great resource for other writers. On more than one occasion I have needed help or further information for something I was working on, and KD has always been someone I could email and he would either give me the info I needed or else point me in the right direction to find someone who could help me. The reason I am saying all of this upfront is because I want to be crystal clear that this is not a personal attack on KD or his writing in general, but instead is just a different perspective on one specific article he wrote.
In a piece titled “Admiring LeBron James’ Ferrari F430 Spider”, he points out that after a rough PR offseason for LeBron, the reigning MVP could use some positive PR as he feels LeBron is beginning to come across “as someone who is far removed from reality”. Evidently that positive PR could potentially involve buying a F430 Spider. He writes:
But, in a way, [the F430 Spider is] also the best. Because this is a proper road car, not some wafer-thin Italian grab of nonsense that you can’t possibly hope to toss at anything besides a rented track or a Jay Leno-styled garage. It “only” has a V8, as opposed to some ridiculously breezy V12, and it turns in at about 483 brake horsepower.
Now, there are Cadillacs with greater output than that these days, but because this car is so finely tuned, so perfect for any occasion, that it wrests just about everything it can from those 483 horses. And because it doesn’t resemble a Mediterranean man’s idea of what a meteor-dodging spaceship would look like, the car is feasible enough to plunk up and down the freeways of northern Ohio.
Even if you feel like merging onto the highway from a complete stop, and hitting 60 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds.
So the idea that LeBron would pick the firmest and less show-offy car in the Ferrari lot had me swimming, for most of the afternoon, and into the late evening.
Now, I will fully admit, I am not much of a car guy. I couldn’t tell you anything about what makes this car better or worse than any other Ferrari. What I can tell you is that it seems like a bit of a stretch to claim that buying a more reasonable Ferrari somehow makes LeBron look like a better person. I could certainly be wrong about that, but I don’t think buying a $200,000 car, regardless of how reasonable it may be, makes LeBron come across as more of a regular person more attached to reality. It’s still a Ferrari, and it’s still a multi-millionaire buying lavish vehicles in a city that continues to feel the crunch of a failing local economy.
Don’t get me wrong, though, this isn’t even the part of this article that I really take issue with. In fact, KD even points out that he is only speaking for himself on the merits of buying this car. He’s not speaking in general for everyone else. I just wanted to give some context here for this article before I got to the crux of this issue.
KD’s issues with LeBron hit home with him after watching a YouTube video that you can see on the Ball Don’t Lie site by clicking here. After watching the video is when KD really unleashed on LeBron, saying:
Yes, that’s James referring to himself as “King James” without much provocation, laughing endlessly at his own bad joke, skulking around his new quarter-million dollar car without asking once about the performance, drive, features, etc — and watching as a man in a large truck reveals that he’s removed the iconic Ferrari Stallion logo, and replaced it with James’ (I’m assuming) Nike-designed logo instead.
Worse, James goes to great lengths to point out that his “logo is very worldwide-known,” which hardly makes sense on a grammatical level, and makes no sense at all to someone who swears that he watched every single Cavalier game last year. I didn’t recognize that logo at all. The Ferrari Stallion? That’s “worldwide-known.” I used to trace that thing onto my composition book in second grade.
So, as it’s been recently with James, even when he’s right … he just can’t get it quite right. Well, there’s always next year’s Conference finals.
And the most recent Audi R8, LeBron, is looking quite nice. Tom Brady has one, and managed not to pry off Audi’s four rings before affixing a “TB12” emblem on the front. You might give it a look, once you’re done brewing up another batch of those tastefully done “LBJ MVP” t-shirts.
(And I’m sure you sent Run DMC the proper royalties for the design, right LeBron?)
My jaw literally dropped wide open when I read that sequence of paragraphs. It is possibly the most uncalled for series of “digs” at a guy for no apparent reason other than to make a bunch of cheap shots in while ripping on LeBron is still trendy. Some of KD’s complaints are so over the top ridiculous that I genuinely am wondering if this article was written as parody and if the joke is really on those of us who might write a response article such as this one.
Lets start at the beginning. His first complaint is that in the video LeBron introduces himself as King James. Now, for better or worse, King James is LeBron’s nickname. I don’t see why this is any different than any of the countless times Shaq has given himself some ludicrous nickname, or Dwyane Wade introducing himself as D-Wade, or Dwight Howard calling himself “Superman” or “Black Magic”. Nicknames are everywhere in the world of sports. These nicknames become ubiquitous within the world of these athletes. So it’s hardly a shocking display of self bravado for LeBron to say something as harmless as “King James in the building”. Lets be honest, is something like this really worthy of being pointed and ridiculed?
When LeBron realizes he’s actually standing outside, he corrects himself and points out that he is actually outside and not “in the building”, saying “er, outside, I say…outside away from the building”. LeBron gives a brief 1 second light hearted chuckle at it, but you can hear the camera audibly laughing out loud at this. Only after hearing the camera man’s loud laughter does LeBron continue his laughing for 2 whole seconds. From 1:15 to 1:17 in the video he’s laughing. Not exactly “laughing endlessly” as KD would have you believe. His first chuckle occurs at 1:12, so at worst he laughed for 5 seconds. Gee, what a villain, huh?
KD’s next bizarre assertion is probably the weirdest one of the whole article and the one that made me really question whether or not he was being serious. KD writes that LeBron, in the video, is “skulking around his new quarter-million dollar car without asking once about the performance, drive, features, etc.” Now, I can’t even begin to describe how asinine I feel this complaint is. This is a 3:26 little video clip. How on earth does KD know LeBron never inquired about the performance of this car before he, you know, actually bought the car? This video is just showing the custom detailing job that Unique Autosports, a custom shop and NOT an auto dealer, did for LeBron, presumably for the Speed Channel’s show “Unique Whips”. Unique Autosports has no reason whatsoever to discuss the performance of this car with LeBron. They didn’t sell him the car. They customized the car, so it makes perfect sense that all they are doing in this video is showing him the work they did for the car.
KD goes on to complain about LeBron replacing the Ferrari logos with his own LB23 logo. Well, like I said, I’m not a huge car guy, so I maybe I don’t get the sacrilege of this act. However, it certainly doesn’t seem to be such an outrageous act that Unique Autosports is trying to hide what they did from the rest of the world in the customization scene. If you go to their website you will see that they feature the F430, with custom logos in tact and visible, on their Flash intro. Evidently they have no problem with what they did, but KD somehow sees this as reason to take up arms and vilify LeBron.
The next thing KD does is a complete low blow and he points out the grammatical error when LeBron says his logo is “very worldwide-known”. I do not for the life of me know why KD felt he had to stoop to this level. LeBron is not a poet or a writer. He is an athlete. He was raised in numerous households growing up and I never get the sense he had anyone reading to him and checking his grammar. LeBron never went to college. He didn’t have to. But all of this is beside the point. Even if LeBron was a professor with 4 PhD’s, it would still be a cheap shot and a low blow to point out a grammatical error he made when speaking. This HARDLY makes LeBron a bad guy. What, we should all be disappointed with LeBron as a person because he’s not a great speaker? Again, gee, what a villain this LeBron guy is.
The other reason I think KD is joking with this article is that he claims to not recognize LeBron’s logo. Now, I can’t speak to how popular this logo is on a global level, and even on a national level, but it certainly is well known to anyone who follows sports and pop culture in Ohio. The logo was used on the basketball uniforms at Ohio State when Greg Oden played in Columbus. LeBron’s logo was used on the OSU model of his signature shoe line. In fact, even LeBron’s low top street shoes, the Air Force 1’s, have a giant logo on them. To my knowledge, every single one of LeBron’s signature shoes, many of which have been showcased on blogs all across the country (particularly when he includes things like the Big Apple or Yankee Pinstripes). That link to the pinstripe shoes is from ESPN.com, one of the largest websites and most viewed sites on the entire web. The Big Apple link comes from KD’s own blog, Ball Don’t Lie (although the post itself was written by Skeets). I find it hard to believe that KD didn’t recognize the logo at all, considering all the different ways it has been displayed throughout the web. It’s possible, though, but again just because KD doesn’t recognize the logo, it doesn’t make LeBron a bad guy or out of touch with reality.
Then KD goes up to amp up the rhetoric with his last 2 paragraphs, taking a couple more snarky shots that are just laced with sarcasm and spite. I guess he’s just had enough of LeBron’s bravado or whatever. I said in our last podcast that I realize that part of having the one of the greatest basketball players in the world and one of the biggest superstars in American sports play for the basketball team I root for means that I am also going to have to deal with reading extreme criticism and microscopic inspection of every little thing he does. A lot of it is trite and annoying, and this article by KD is no different. I wish I could let it all just go and not feel the need to respond, but when you take the number of bizarre criticisms that are laid out in KD’s article, it just begs someone to call him out on this.
Look, we know that Waiting For Next Year is one of, if not the, most read Cleveland sports blogs out there. We take a lot of pride in the community we have built here. But we’re hardly in the discussion for greatest sports blogs on the planet. None the less, I have shirts with “Waiting For Next Year” plastered on them, and I wear them with pride. Does this make me out of touch with reality and a bad guy like LeBron? Scott has WFNY custom license plates. We make custom Twitter backgrounds with WFNY on them. We take pride in our brand and our image even as insignificant as we really are. So far be it from me to criticize someone like LeBron who is actually a truly great player and who has accomplished as much as he has. He should be proud of being the MVP. I’m not saying wearing a shirt like that makes him come across as humble in any way, and I’m not saying if WFNY was voted “Best Cleveland Sports Blog” that I would make a shirt and wear it. I’m just saying that in the world of bravado, ego, confidence, and arrogance that professional sports, I hardly find LeBron’s actions to be appalling or out of line with what anyone else does. It’s just LeBron is such a mega star that it makes him an enormous target for ridicule.
I know I’m biased here. I make no attempt to hide my admiration for LeBron James, both as a person and as a player. And no, I would not be writing this article if KD’s original piece had been about Dwight Howard and not LeBron. This doesn’t mean my points are invalid, though, and my intentions here are actually not to defend LeBron, but to point out how nitpicky and trivial KD’s complaints about LeBron really are. Normally, an article like this would cause me to just roll my eyes, we would probably discuss it briefly internally via email, and then I would be done with it. But Kelly Dwyer is a person who carries a lot of weight and influence with what he writes, and so when I saw who it was that had written that article, I realized it was not something I could just ignore. It’s always tricky when you try to tell someone else how they should react to something or what they should be offended by. Perhaps my point that KD should lighten up is no more appropriate than KD telling everyone else they should be offended by LeBron’s actions in this video. Whatever the case, in a long line of articles that have been slamming LeBron all summer long, this was the one that I, personally, found to be the most petty and the one that most needed to be responded to.