x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

James will learn from reaction

LeBron has set the bar very high for himself. So when he does something like his speedy departure after the Orlando defeat, on a big national television stage, it gets overblown.

We had the NBA commissioner David Stern on our radio show on Tuesday and we asked him if he was disappointed that the Cleveland Cavaliers' star LeBron James had walked off the court without shaking hands with the Orlando Magic players after the Cavaliers were knocked out of the NBA play-offs. LeBron also left the building without fulfilling his media obligations after the defeat that had ended their hopes of reaching the NBA finals.

"In lieu of discussing that here and making news," Stern said. "I plan on reserving comment until I speak to LeBron, which will be in the near future." The commissioner went on to explain why he did not fine LeBron. "Rather than make the story about anything other than the competition, it was best left undone." Stern said. The commissioner was unlike almost every other media outlet which dissected the non-handshake and media blow-off by the leagues' premier star.

LeBron did speak the day after the loss to explain his actions. "It's hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them," James said of his behaviour in the moments after the game. "I'm a winner. It's not being a poor sport or anything like that. "If somebody beats you up, you're not going to congratulate them. "That doesn't make sense to me. I'm a competitor. That's what I do. "It doesn't make sense for me to go over and shake somebody's hand."

With that explanation in hand, you have to either agree with LeBron that his competitiveness got to him or you have to criticise him for not being a professional post-game and taking the season ending disappointment with sporting good grace. I know you reading this and not familiar with the story are thinking, "all this over a handshake, isn't this silly?" It is and it is not. LeBron James is a worldwide brand. He is a marketing dream. He has lived up to the hype that started in high school.

LeBron has been phenomenal on the court and almost error free off the court. He's entertaining and engaging. You also have to remember that he is 24 years old. LeBron has set the bar very high for himself. It is almost impossible to find a chink in the armour. So when he does something like this, on a big national television stage, it gets overblown. Look, this may temporarily hurt LeBron's image. We took calls on the radio and a good amount thought LeBron was unprofessional and childish after the loss.

We also got calls saying that the emotion of the painful loss got the best of him and that they understood. When Stern and LeBron James do meet, I'm sure Stern will say: "Look, I didn't fine you for this one. This is your hall pass. "You saw the reaction from your actions. Think it through next time." If this is the worst thing LeBron James does, the NBA and his sponsors have little to worry about.

He is not showing up in the police blotter and he is not going into the stands to tussle with a fan. When you are as great as he is, the media will find something to get on to you about. It took a while for this to happen with LeBron, but the next time you see him on the court, this will be a distant memory. By the way, I'm reaching out right now to shake all your hands for reading this article?I'm a professional.

ppabst@thenational.ae