LeBron's aversion to handshakes and common sense
Among other highlights of today's 710 ESPN Lakers podkast (Discussions about Pau Gasol's finger, Kurt Rambis' defection/Phil Jackson's future, the "Pay Per View" section of Kobe Bryant's website, wicked use of Iron Butterfly), one of the topics BK and I discussed was LeBron James' steadfast insistence that refusing to shake hands after being eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals was fine. I think he's done himself a tremendous disservice with this stance, but at least his rationale has always been flimsy ("I'm a winner"), as opposed to flat out bizarre... until now.
"The media, your ... job don't start until ours' finish. You guys can't report and write you guys' story until we take a shower, until we come out and sit on the podium. That's the only thing I apologize for. As far as shaking hands, it's something that is not done in the NBA. If it was something like tennis, after tennis, you play, you win, you lose, you go to the center and shake hands, it happens every game in tennis."
James is convinced the reason the story drew so much attention over the past few months was due to the fact he blew off the obligatory media session after the Game 6 loss in Orlando.
"In basketball, you look at 82 regular-season games, it's easy, guys are gonna shake hands, the fact that [I didn't] do the media [session], I think that's why [the story] was all blown up, and I apologize for that, but I will not apologize for shaking nobody's hand," he said. "You never accept losing, ever."
When the reporter reminded James that most players usually shake hands at the end of a playoff series, James bristled again. "No you don't, no you don't," he responded.
Am I the only person reminded of the SNL sketch where Martin Short's "Nathan Thurm" character attempts to deny obvious truths?
Um, players don't shake hands at the end of a series, LeBron? Really? Because if you check out those cats hanging around as you stormed off the court, I'm pretty sure that's what they were doing. And before you offer another explanation, similar to the moon landing, this footage wasn't faked.
Look, I would understand LeBron firmly denying the existence of aliens. The Chubacabra. A capable acting job from Megan Fox. But NBA post-game handshakes? This is your Carl Everett-Dinosaurs crusade, Bron Bron?
Seriously, is LeBron so determined to avoid admitting a mistake that he'd rather look like an absolute fool in the process? This has grown beyond ridiculous. It's like The Fonz stumbling over a "I was wruh-wruh-wruh" while trying to say he was wrong. I couldn't find a Youtube clip where pride transforms Chachi's uncle into a mushmouth, but I did find another scene from "Happy Days" that reminds me of LeBron these days.
By the way, the only thing better than Fonzie wearing a leather jacket while water skiing is wearing a life jacket subtle enough to avoid sullying his coolness. Well played, sir. Well played.
I don't know if it's the "Where do I go in 2010?" pressure, or seeing his puppet getting dissed by Kobe's, or he already misses Sasha Pavlovic, but whatever the case, LeBron appears to have gone off the rails of late. Between this incident and ConfiscatedDunkVideo-Gate, we're all witnesses as one of the most naturally appealing athletes of his generation with a keen marketing savvy keeps air balling obvious ways to control what should be non-stories. And in both cases, ego bears a common presence.
Even if you believe LeBron that Nike snatched that footage over "policy," call me a naive dreamer with no understanding of contract clauses, but I'm pretty confident The King could have convinced Nike to make a special exception for him. And considering that was the painfully obvious way to put the situation to bed, it stands to reason LBJ couldn't have been overly casual about people seeing the facial. With the handshake, the inability to just own an error in judgment easily explainable and fairly minor has transformed him from a sore loser in denial to a sore loser making claims that are flat out delusional. Whatever legs these stories have enjoyed came courtesy of a guy either too clueless or too arrogant about why they were even stories in the first place. Insinuating the media blew this up as payback for blowing them off just adds more depth to the grave he's digging. The lack of kibosh achieved from "Team LeBron" is pretty mind boggling.
On the plus side, at least Shaq may not carry the burden of being the only Cav saying things that make folks cringe next season. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
Photo: LeBron James on the floor. Credit: Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images North America