Just shake about it, LeBron - Tucson Local Media: Sports

Just shake about it, LeBron

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 11:00 pm

LeBron James knows how to shake hands. It shouldn't be that hard to remember when.

After losing a playoff series, for instance, no matter how much of a "competitor" you fancy yourself.

For one thing, you're done competing. For another, it doesn't require much effort, or sincerity. If sportsmanship isn't motivation enough, and whatever friendships you've forged on the other side aren't important enough, then how about just to show some respect?

Lord knows, James gets his share.

Let's be clear: For the most part, James has been a model citizen. He's polite, accessible, generous with his time and money, and plays hard every night. Now 24, he's handled the spotlight and the comparisons to Michael Jordan since his junior year of high school with poise, and without the benefit of even one year on a college campus, let alone with somebody like Dean Smith — who mentored Jordan at North Carolina — in his corner.

Even so, a little more maturity was in order Saturday night. In the seconds after the Magic eliminated his Cavaliers, James had the good sense on his rush toward the exit to stop and shake hands with all-time NBA great Oscar Robertson, who, coincidentally, was walking onto the floor to present the Eastern Conference trophy to Orlando.

But that was it.

James left without saying a word and his explanation a day later was more awkward still.

"It's hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them. I mean, I'm a winner. That's not being a poor sport or anything like that," he told reporters back at the team's facility Sunday in Cleveland. "Somebody beat you up, you're not going to congratulate them on beating you up.

"I'm a competitor," he added. "That's what I do. It don't make sense to me to go up and shake somebody's hand."

It has, though, for generations of ballplayers, including a lucky few who were every bit as gifted as James, and dozens more whose trophy collections James will need plenty of luck to match.

Jordan, to name one, made a point of shaking the hands of the Pistons' self-styled "Bad Boys" every time they knocked his less-talented Bulls out of the Eastern Conference playoffs early in his pro career, in much the same situation James finds himself now. His best was good enough to drag an average team through the regular season and into the playoffs. But against the best teams, trying to win a championship single-handedly too often turned his teammates into, well, witnesses.

"Four other guys standing around waiting for something to happen," Jordan conceded just before the Bulls finally broke through, "isn't going to do anybody any good."

Oddly enough, Jordan never got the hand shakes returned. After the Bulls beat Detroit en route to their first title in 1991, the Pistons' trio of Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Mark Aguirre walked off the court near the end of the game in a deliberate snub. Jordan responded to the slight by making sure the Pistons never got by him again.

Whether Dwight Howard responds the same way remains to be seen. Though he said he understood why James left the court without a word, if anyone earned a handshake and the measure of respect that goes with it, that guy was Howard.

The Magic center was a teammate on last summer's U.S. Olympic squad and he looks more and more like a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Howard came into the league less polished and his game isn't as showy, but he's the same age as James and he's already mastered the toughest lesson about being a star _ making everyone around him better.

When asked about LeBron's disappearing act, Howard said he received a congratulatory, late-night e-mail and didn't sound too vexed.

"I just thought he would have said something to me, or said something to the team. He's probably upset, probably hurt and understand that, respect it. One day we'll see each other," he said, "and I'll have to wait until then."

But in the next moment, asked whether he was surprised, Howard barely hesitated.

"Real surprised," he said.

No one competes in a sport to make excuses or concession speeches. But being able to make a passable one — even if it's just muttering "well done" in a handshake line — used to be a consequence of losing, a lesson in responsibility.

What James did offended old-school sensibilities, to be sure, but it also sent the wrong message to the guys playing against and especially alongside him at the moment.

If that's his idea of leadership, he's headed in the wrong direction.

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke@ap.org

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More about

More about

More about

Welcome to the discussion.

Oro Valley Audiology

Oro Valley AudiologyAddress: 2542 E Vistoso Commerce Loop Rd, Oro Valley, AZ 85755Phone:(520) ...

HS Schedule

2015 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Aug. 13

Seton Catholic @ Marana (scrimmage)

Aug. 21

Hamilton @ Ironwood Ridge

Rio Rico @ Marana

Catalina Foothills @ Desert Edge

Aug. 28

CDO @ Gilbert

Mountain View @ La Joya Community

Pueblo @ Catalina Foothills

Pusch Ridge @ Bisbee

Sep. 4

CDO @ Tucson High Magnet School

Westwood @ Ironwood Ridge

Horizon @ Mountain View

Marana @ Pueblo

Benson @ Pusch Ridge

Catalina Foothills @ Cienega

Sep. 11

CDO @ Sahuaro

Salpointe @Ironwood Ridge

Mountain View @ Sunnyside

Arcadia @ Marana

McClintock @ Catalina Foothills

Pusch Ridge @ Combs

Sep. 18

Cienega @ CDO

Ironwood Ridge @ Tucson High

Buena @ Mountain View

Marana @ Tempe

Catalina Foothills @ Rincon/University

Pusch Ridge @ Amphi

Sep. 25

Buena @ CDO

Sahuaro @ Ironwood Ridge

Mountain View at Cienega

Marana @ Catalina Foothills

Cholla @ Pusch Ridge

Oct. 2

CDO @ Ironwood Ridge

Queen Creek @ Mountain View

Nogales @ Marana

Catalina Foothills @ Safford

Sahuarita @ Pusch Ridge

Oct. 9

Poston Butte @ CDO

Ironwood Ridge @ Queen Creek

Shadow Ridge @ Mountain View

Marana @ Desert View

Nogales @ Catalina Foothills

Pusch Ridge @ Flowing Wells

Oct 16

CDO @ Queen Creek

Ironwood Ridge @ Marcos de Niza

Mountain View @ Poston Butte

Rincon/University @ Marana

Catalina Foothills @ Sabino

Pueblo @ Pusch Ridge

Oct. 23

Mountain View @ CDO

Poston Butte @ Ironwood Ridge

Marana @ Safford

Desert View @ Catalina Foothills

Walden Grove @ Pusch Ridge

Oct. 30

CDO @ Campo Verde 

Ironwood Ridge @ Mountain View

Sabino @ Marana

Pusch Ridge @ Rio Rico

Marana storm knocks down power lines, trees fall into home

More Featured Videos
Spacer4px

Follow us on Facebook