While it may be playoff time, there is no better time than the present to address an issue that has become a problem to the NBA and its top athlete LeBron James.
If you have watched a NBA game recently, you’ve noticed a few things that are different now compared to the years of Magic Johnson, Bill Russell and even Michael Jordan. Traveling at times is not a rule, hand-checking has allowed defenders to “body-up” players on a more regular basis and the game has become more an entertainment spectacle than a sporting event.
Don’t get me wrong, these players are being paid to entertain and put on a good show with all of their talent. Yet, some players feel the need to showoff and have a signature celebration after every big play. While this is entertaining to some fans, it has become monotonous and unnecessary for the game of basketball.
Make no mistake about it, emotion is a huge part of the game of basketball and professional sports in general. When players’ make a good or big play, it is completely understandable to show some emotion and get fired up; however, when players are making these elaborate celebrations over what can be deemed “routine” plays, it becomes excessive.
This person who best represents this excessive celebration barrage is none other than James, one of the league’s biggest and brightest superstars. James possesses the rare combination of strength, athleticism and scoring ability that makes him one of the greatest players of all-time; however, his behavior during the first game of the playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks, for example, was unacceptable.
James is supposed to be one of the best players in all of basketball that makes highlight-reel plays. During those moments, it is very understandable that James can get fired up, especially with all of the criticism and heckling that he often receives for leaving Cleveland.
Nevertheless, those celebrations should be saved for those special moments, not routine plays.
During Game 1 against the Bucks, James finished a few dunks and drew a few fouls that resulted in “and-1” opportunities from the free-throw line. After he completed the play, which he has done numerous times throughout his career, James puffed out his chest and stared into the crowd as if he were some tough warrior looking for verification on how great he is.
Those antics are for mediocre players that need those moments to define their careers, not for a superstar like James.
If that instance were to have happened once, I likely would have gotten over it and chalked it up to the changing atmosphere of the NBA today. However, James continued to do similar acts throughout the game where he again would puff out his chest or stare into the crowd or camera after making a routine dunk when his team was ahead comfortably.
Not only does this make James seem childish, it is also poor sportsmanship. Those type of plays should be an expectation for James, not a rarity.
Just imagine if Justin Verlander puffed out his chest and stared into the crowd after every strikeout. People would criticize his behavior and call him an idiot. Now, I understand that the two sports are different and you see these acts in the NFL as well, but the expectations for the top professional athletes should all be the same. They should be the model examples of sportsmanship and talent, not embarrassment.
If James wants to be treated and thought of in the same conversation as the game’s greats like Jordan, he needs to start acting like one of the game’s greats. I understand that the game has changed and has become an entertainment business, but James needs to grow up and act like he’s been there before.
I fully understand that I’ll likely be in the minority on this opinion, but the game would benefit from a superstar modeling proper sportsmanship and a business-like attitude during games. All James is doing is breeding another generation of showboating basketball players who will only take these actions even further.
In terms of ending these antics, the buck doesn’t stop in Milwaukee; it stops with James.