On Tuesday, LeBron James tweeted that he would not, in fact, be tempted “to beat (Kyrie Irving’s) ass” if he were standing in front of Irving today. What a sentence that was. They didn’t warn me in journalism school that I would have to ever write something that absurd.
Let’s backtrack: We know Irving has requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers. We know that trade will probably happen, although of the many potential destinations, none are perfect fits. We understand, more or less, that Irving’s request comes from his fatigue of playing under James’ shadow and a desire to star on his own team.
On Monday, Stephen A. Smith returned from vacation and said this on his ESPN radio show. (The quote in question is at the 20-minute mark of that link.)
“I’ve had sources in LeBron James’ camp literally tell me, and I’m quoting—I’m quoting, Charles!—if Kyrie Irving was in front of LeBron James right now, LeBron James would be tempted, quote, to beat his ass, end quote.”
Several news sites aggregated that quote, because it’s salacious as hell and Smith is ... well, his reports aren’t always wrong, although that’s not exactly the reliability you’d desire from someone in the media. James saw one of those aggregators and responded with this.
1. This is such a James tweet, with multiple hashtags and several emojis sprinkled throughout. At another time, we’re going to talk about how James’ social media presence is stuck in 2011.
2. To be clear, James can deny Smith’s report — or “report” — and it still be correct. There’s no way to prove this right or wrong. If a more reliable reporter said this, then maybe there would be some actual substance to it. But while Smith clearly talks to and has contacts with people in the league, his track record is poor. I’m sure someone told him that quote — he’s not just flat-out making it up. But that person may be prone to exaggeration, or might be too far out of James’ circle to really have any clue, or maybe isn’t in James’ circle at all and has an ax to grind.
3. This is why most reporters don’t report on things like this — salacious but unverifiable reporting that doesn’t add much of anything. Unless James has taped a photo of Irving’s face to a punching bag and is spending several hours every morning working on his kickboxing, then let’s just let this slide. James may be upset at Irving, and he has legitimate reasons to be upset, or disappointed, or even angry. But he’s probably not going to “kick his ass.”