LeBron Breaks Silence on Dunkgate, Walkoff

We live in an age of nonstop player communication via Twitter, unless the system is down—or the player's name is LeBron James. In the saga of Dunkgate, the most remarkable thing was not the news of the play, nor the cover-up, nor the eventual tape. It was the silence from James throughout, tightly controlling his image at a time when most athletes just can't shut up. ↵
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↵Not to say that LeBron owed the world an explanation, but we expect more openness from athletes these days. Missing multiple junctures to speak out—which, it should be said, would've defused the situation several news cycles earlier and made all bygone bygones—makes James look like a dinosaur. Luckily for us and him, James has decided to open up in a long interview, not only saying more than usual, but digging a little deeper. Catching up with his peers, maybe. ↵
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↵From Ball Don't Lie: ↵
↵⇥"I never told anyone to confiscate any tapes. Nike has a no videotape policy at pick-up games. They've always done that. Now that LeBron is involved, it's blown up. It's a play that happens in basketball all the time. You can go on YouTube and see me being dunked on by a lot of guys. I like to call myself a shot blocker and [getting dunked on] tends to happen. Jordan Crawford is going to be a good basketball player ..." ↵
↵But wait, there's more. How about some frank talk about his decision to avoid the Magic and the media at the end of the conference finals, the kind of action players rarely feel the need to justify or explain (at least not in terms that make human sense)? Here's the reasoning: ↵
↵⇥"I wouldn't have done it the same. I would have done the media. Looking back on it, without you guys, there's no LeBron James, D-Wade, Tiger Woods or no Peyton Manning. If I could have started over again, I would have done the media. As I thought about it I could see why people were talking about because your job starts when mine ends. ↵⇥
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↵⇥"But as far as the dunk or whatever car I'm driving, some things you shouldn't comment and some things you should. I look at the no handshake like this — during the regular season, no one ever shakes hands. You move on to the next game. I congratulated Dwight Howard through email and told him good luck in the Finals. Shaking hands is not a big deal to me. It's not being a sore loser, it’s moving on. Sometimes people want you to accept losing and I'll never accept losing." ↵
↵Most striking here isn't that James has feelings and can express them, or that some Congratulations 2.0 too place between him and Howard. No, the really interesting part is that he turns it into a commentary on his relationship with the media.
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↵I can't decide if that means he's still clinging to the old ways, or after much deliberation, he's hitting on a way to be more forthcoming while making sure everything is kept in perspective. Turning the conversation back on the press is a smart way of doing that, since so much of the ambiguity surrounding new media is just how much they're meant for Joe Sportswriter versus the younger, hipper fan. ↵
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↵James can't very well lose the latter demographic. He's got a lifetime of playing cagey with the traditional folks; you could argue that many bloggers require even more caution. But at the same time, something's got to give before James starts to look fusty. The youth will rule us all and buy all the sneakers. Keep the old dudes in line, watch for the snakes, but by and large, realize where the future lies. ↵
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↵There's more in that interview worth reading, especially a very detailed breakdown of how he'll work with Shaq that borders on one of Kobe's professorial lectures, and the news that he'd like to sign an extension. Exact quote: "Hopefully everything works out." Still hedging, but there's enough emotion there for us to know what we'd long suspected—underneath the many layers of armor, James loves the Cavs and wants to keep doing his noble duty for that franchise.
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↵For more NBA coverage, visit SportingNews.com's new NBA blog, The Baseline.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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