Feb 13, 2011, 12:00 PM EST
So on Friday in Detroit, some genius decided to start making Valentine’s Day jokes at LeBron about his mother. You know the gag. You’ve seen these types of guys before. Acting as if they’re doing something fun, or trying to get at a player as if that’s righteous, when in reality, they’re just trying to draw attention away from someone famous onto themselves. It’s like an attention parasite. It’s not funny (usually), it’s not brave, and it’s pretty ridiculous. You see the same thing in media when a writer takes a bombastic stance just to get pageviews and look like an “outlaw.” It’s pretty much the model of immaturity, but it is what it is.
Anyway, James took offense, and actually responded to the man. Now, James gets heckled in every city he goes to. Night after night, year after year, he takes abuse. And he gets paid a lot of money to take that abuse, and he’s brought a measure of it on himself with his own behavior at times. But this was a little different. Why did James decide to respond? ESPN fills us in:
This is the moment when you need to know that what was said isn’t as important as why it was said. First, any insulting reference made about anyone’s mother is out of line. Secondly, LeBron’s kids were seated a few feet away, near the Heat’s bench. So LeBron was not only insulted about his mother, he felt his kids were also insulted by the reference made about their grandmother.
I’m not even sure LeBron Jr., 6, and Bryce, 3, heard or understood the heckler. And I’m confident the heckler didn’t know LeBron’s kids were there, let alone within earshot of his remark. But that’s not the point. I’ve seen, firsthand, how LeBron has ignored much more vile comments in the past.
Yeah, talking about a kid’s grandmother with him sitting a few rows away is not cool. Those kids haven’t done anything to anyone, and there’s no excuse for putting them through something like that. Sure, the genius was probably unaware of the kids’ presence. But that’s the point. Before you start saying those things, perhaps you should think about saying it to him when he’s not in uniform, if he’s just on the street, with his kids. It’s a fan’s right to boo. But there’s got to be some sort of limit on the conversation.
That doesn’t exist with James. For some reason, leaving Cleveland in the middle of the night on national television to go play with two better basketball players is the ultimate crime. Forgetting the historic precedent for what James did, and the vast number of heartless jerks that have played professional basketball through the years, just think back through the past, oh, say ten years. Think of all the horrible things athletes have done. But this, for some reason, makes people think they’re entitled to make comments about a guy’s family, the only parent he ever had, in front of his kids.
I’m not saying James doesn’t deserve it. I’m saying there’s no excuse for the behavior under any circumstances.
Now, as far as what James said, it, of course, doesn’t make sense.
“I don’t care what you say to me,” James told the heckler. “I don’t give a [expletive] what you say. But don’t be disrespectful.”
So, you can say whatever you want, but you can’t say anything disrespectful. That’s kind of the point of heckling, there, LeBron. James would have probably done better to say “My kids are four rows away. You make another comment, and I’ll make sure you never see another game in this building.” Pistons players would back him up on that.
ESPN’s Michael Wallace is right, though. James showed a vulnerability to the comments. Which means there may be more of them. And they may be in Boston, today.
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