Monday, June 1, 2009
LeBron did not shake hand after loss
No one likes to lose, especially someone as competitive as you, who's as used to winning, and winning big as you. You have won more in your short life than most people do in their entire lives. But that doesn't give you the right to be a poor loser, on the rare occasions that you lose.
Then, you got dressed, and walked out without speaking to anyone other than your teammates. Not to the Nike reps that were, reportedly, waiting to see you (they'll understand), to the Magic players in their locker room (not cool, again) or to the media that was waiting for you.
On that last one, I know: who cares? Well, a lot of people. You may think what we do doesn't matter, but we're still the conduit through which many fans that don't have Twitter or Facebook pages or anything else get their information about their teams and favorite players. You may not think so, but LeBron, you stiffed them, too--many of whom are your loyal fans. You know that thousands of kids emulate you, want to be like you. Is this the lesson you want them to learn?
You did congratulate the Magic on Sunday for their victory, which was good. But you still said you were right not to shake hands. Not so good.
"One thing about me you gotta understand; it is hard for me to congratulate somebody after just losing to him," you told the Cleveland Plain Dealer back in Cleveland on Sunday. "I'm a winner. That's not being a poor sport or anything like that. If somebody beats you up, you are not going to congratulate them [for] beating you up. That doesn't make sense to me, I'm a competitor and that is what I do. It doesn't make sense to me to go over and shake somebody's hand."
LeBron, I think you're great, on and off the court. You're a wondrous player, and better yet, a very level-headed young man who is mature beyond all possible expectation. But you couldn't be more wrong on this one.
You don't get to dictate the terms under which you're going to be gracious. You either are gracious, or you're not. I have no doubt that you were incredibly hurt, and angry, and frustrated after Game 6. But you know what? Karl Malone and John Stockton were hurt and angry and frustrated after losing the Finals, twice. Jerry West was hurt and angry and frustrated after he lost in the Finals eight times. Eight. Six times to Bill Russell's Celtics. After the last, in 1969, according to Robert Cherry's biography of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell held West's hand, and John Havlicek said, "I love you, Jerry."
Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing and Dominique Wilkens and Mark Price and Clyde Drexler and Gary Payton and Reggie Miller were hurt and angry and frustrated after each one of them was vanquished--in some cases, multiple times--by Michael Jordan and the Bulls in a playoff series. Kobe Bryant was hurt and angry and frustrated last year, after his Lakers got a 37-point beatdown by the Celtics in the final game of the Finals.
They all shook hands. They all spoke to the media afterward.
You think those kids your St. Vincent-St. Mary's teams pummelled in the state finals in Ohio for three years weren't hurt, and angry, and frustrated? Most of their basketball careers ended with those state title games. A lot of them didn't have college scholarships to keep playing ball, and almost none of them had NBA dreams. How many of those kids came up to you afterward and shook your hand, said 'good game,' or congratulations?
You were incredibly gracious last March in Columbus, when you watched SVSM win another state basketball championship, this one over Dayton Thurgood Marshall. Afterward, you consoled Thurgood's star player, who was in tears after losing in heartbreaking fashion. You think that kid walked off the court and into the night without congratulating any of the SVSM players on their hard-earned victory?
You don't congratulate someone after they've beaten you up? You're wrong.
Mike Tyson, of all people, is an example. After getting destroyed by Lennox Lewis in 2002--"one of them down home, Mississippi ass-whippin's," as his former trainer, Tommy Brooks, so eloquently explained to HBO in the "Legendary Nights" documentary of the fight--Tyson displayed a grace and class in defeat that leaves no excuses for anyone else that's lost a game. He apologized to Lewis for his crass pre-fight comments about wanting to harm Lewis's children. He gave Lewis full credit for knocking him out. He sat for numerous post-fight interviews.
"I am thankful for the chance," Tyson said. "He knows I love him and I hope he gives me the chance to fight him one more time."
It wouldn't hurt if you showed up at the Finals and shook Dwight Howard's hand, but however you want to handle it, you should handle it. It doesn't make you less of a winner to congratulate the dude that beat you. It makes you even more of a champion.
"LeBron needs to take a lesson from another Cleveland icon"
By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst
Posted Jun 1 2009 12:25AM on NBA.com