There is no denying that LeBron James is one of the best athletes in the sports world today and it would be very easy to make an argument for him as the best player in the NBA. He has been an NBA all-star since the age of twenty and a phenom since his high school years. He averages 27.6 points per game over a 496 game career that spans back to 2003. Coupled with his high points per game total, he also averages 6.8 assists and 7.0 rebounds per game. He is currently the active leader in points per game scoring nearly two and a half points more than Kobe Bryant.
The league loves LeBron. He is a former Rookie of the Year, two time All-Star Game MVP, five time All-NBA (3x first team, 2x second team), and one time All-NBA defensive first teamer.
Just last season, LeBron took home his first NBA MVP award by averaging 28.4 points, 7.2 assists, and 7.6 rebounds per game while leading his Cavaliers to a 66-16 record in the East. He was fully deserving of the award.
Now, in the 2009-2010 season, LeBron is averaging 28.8 points, 8.0 assists, and 6.9 total rebounds per game. His Cleveland Cavaliers are 17-7 and in control of the Central division by five games over the 11-11 Milwaukee Bucks.
Also now in the 2009-2010 season, it appears LeBron has relaxed a little after winning that MVP award just last spring. It looks like he is getting a little too comfortable.
Being comfortable is good. Just relax a little, things get tough sometimes. It's good to clear your mind; especially in a highly competitive sport like basketball.
LeBron has done a great job this season of getting his team loose before games. One that we all see is when he and the squad take imaginary pictures of each other. They also have been trying something else out.
On December 4th, before a contest against the Chicago Bulls, LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers were dancing in the locker room, in the tunnel, and a little on the court before the start of the game. That's all fine. Whatever happens before the game is simply that - before the game.
But just leave it to LeBron to take it one step further (traveling pun intended). LeBron kept dancing that Friday night. LeBron was seen dancing under the baseline, by his team's bench, in his warm-ups, and while the game was going on. The Bulls were bringing the ball up court while the rest of LeBron's teammates were dropping back on defense when LeBron was seen showing off his moves. Yes, the Bulls called timeout once they crossed half court with the ball but the fact still remains that James was dancing in plain sight for everyone to see even before the timeout. He was showing up the other team which is throughly frowned upon in the NBA.
LeBron's dance moves didn't go unnoticed, though, as later in the game, Bulls' forward Joakim Noah had a little something to say about it. At the six-minute mark in the fourth quarter with LBJ and the Cavs up 89-71 on the struggling Bulls, Joakim was barking from the bench at LeBron as he stepped to the line for one of two free throws. It is unclear what Joakim said exactly at first, but from a reading of the lips, LeBron responded by saying " ... what are you talking about," before he sank the first free throw. LeBron felt the need to approach the Bulls' bench and find out exactly what Noah was talking about. Big Zydrunas Ilgauskas had to get in between Noah and LeBron as well as Noah and Mo Williams before anything got ugly ala The Malice at the Palace. LeBron received a technical and rightfully so.
It was made clear later that what Noah was talking about indeed was the dance moves of LeBron and he certainly did not appreciate it. Noah's comments were ugly and got under LeBron's skin. He said, according to ESPN's Ric Bucher, "This is so f*c*ing old," and "You're a b***ch." Maybe Joakim didn't say it in the right tone nor choose the right words, but he had the right idea.
Now let's pull you forward to just last night. The Cleveland Cavaliers had a match-up in Oklahoma City against the Thunder. With his team down 27-22 with two minutes left to play in the first quarter, LeBron steals a cross court pass intended for rookie guard James Harden.
James takes it coast to coast before being fouled by Harden and converted the basket. LeBron continues with his momentum out of bounds where he takes fries from a boy and eats them; and, once again, showing up his opponent.
Sounds prohibited to me. But LeBron was not given a technical foul, possibly because he is LeBron. He was also not called for a travel either when he brought the ball past half court on the steal nor after he was foul and converted the baskets. Both of which could have easily been called. That could be because LeBron is LeBron and the officials have a history of no-travel calls on him or it could also be because the officials have a history of no travel calls against everybody. That is a different topic for a different day, though.
If you look closer at the clip provided by Yahoo, you see the Cavaliers bench in the background when LeBron takes the fries from the kid. Some of his teammates think its funny and show obvious grins. You see the Big Diesel. One of the biggest jokesters in the history of the NBA. Known as a seven-foot tall kid. He isn't laughing nor does he have a grin on his face. He is just looking at LeBron. Could that tell you something?
Taking the fry sort of resembled the Terrell Owens of old snatching the bucket of popcorn and throwing it on his helmeted face. Both Owens and James are/were superstars of their sport with both being freakishly athletic in every way. Owens loved to have fun and did some interesting things that lead to his ultimate demise in many cities costing him millions of dollars. LeBron James is just now starting to have fun ...
Both the incidents, dancing when the Cavs scored a bucket he wasn't even involved in and having a celebratory French fry after an and-one just proves that LeBron is becoming a little too relaxed. He is becoming relaxed because the NBA is too relaxed on him.
In both incidents, the mainstream media seem to be taking LeBron's side. They are getting a good laugh out of him stealing the fry after the steal of the pass. Yahoo Sports made it "Steal of the Night," as well as the front story when you visit the website. The story attached to it obviously takes LeBron's side by using the term "LeBron haters," saying there was "clear[ly] no disrespect involved," and jokingly saying we should be "impressed," that he could make the free throw with grease on his hands.
Its things like this that make LeBron do what he does. If it was in his genes, he would have been doing it when he was 19, 20, or 21 and just getting his start in the NBA. Now that, apparently, we are all "witnesses" and he is now known as "King James," he has started all this junk.
The real question is what is LeBron celebrating for? His team is indeed 17-7, in first place in their division, and number five in Marc Stein's latest power rankings; but is that worth celebrating about? They are only five games above the 11-11 Milwaukee Bucks whom are being led under the power of Brandon Jennings alone. Their best player for years, Michael Redd, has only played six games this season. Redd has scored over twenty points per game for the Bucks since the 2003-2004 season and is their best pure shooter. Without him for so long, it was amazing to see them at 11-11. LeBron better worry about his Cavs and start watching their backs instead of snagging fries.
LeBron isn't having a spectacular season to this point, either. He is only scoring .4 more points than last season, assisting .8 more per game, and has a rebound total that is .7 lower. He is also turning the ball over 3.7 times per game which is the highest for his career. Along with that, he isn't doing too hot on defense, either. His defensive rating, an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions, is at 102. His total last year was at 99.
The greatest of the great players never did stuff like this. Wilt Chamberlain didn't, Kareem didn't, Magic didn't, and Kobe doesn't. Certainly, Michael Jordan never did it either. The NBA has to be grateful that LeBron made a good choice for once and decided to change his number from M.J.'s 23 to 6. Having a showboating player like this wearing the number made famous by a classy player whom many consider the best of all time is not what anyone wants.
LeBron hasn't even won a championship yet, so he can't even celebrate about that. Look at Kobe Bryant. Kobe just won his fourth title with the Lakers. Not after his first did he celebrate on court. Not after the second, third, nor the fourth did he celebrate either. Kobe doesn't dance in his opponents' faces or eat during games in between plays. Kobe plays basketball.
It's either come down hard on LeBron and keep the integrity of the game and have the best player in the league be a class act, or lose all control over the future of the NBA. It only takes something small to start something large.