Irish Coffee: Hating the Heat easier than beating Miami
|05.29.12 at 1:42 pm ET|
Listen, I’m a Bostonian. I learned the game of basketball watching Larry Bird and listening to my father’s stories of Red Auerbach‘s Celtics of old. Cleaning out some old stuff from my parents house over the weekend, I found a Reggie Lewis collage from 20 years ago. Do I see the NBA through green-colored glasses at times? Probably.
Then again, I’m one of the guys who a couple months ago had the Celtics as a seventh seed losing in the first round, so I like to think I can take a step back and look at games and series and seasons rationally.
It starts with James, and not just because of the ridiculous Decision, declaring himself a champion — not once, not twice — before building one as a team, although that’s part of it. That was one epic failure of a public relations move made by a team of people he pays to make those kinds of judgment calls for him.
It’s that he’s the best basketball player in the world, yet completely unlikable. As a friend of mine said, he’s the A-Rod of basketball. You wouldn’t even want to have a beer with him, much less want your kid aspiring to be him.
It’s his “LBJ MVP” and “Check My $tats” t-shirts. It’s calling a female reporter’s question “retarded”, stewing on the comment for a day, only to reiterate, “It’s the same as me saying, ‘I don’t think that’s a great question,’ or, ‘I think it’s a stupid question.’” It’s the way he treats ball boys. And waiters.
It’s making the same mistakes over and over, and then trying to convince everyone else he’s a changed man once someone in his entourage relays to him how he’s coming across in the public eye. As if we’re the idiots.
It’s that he could be the greatest ambassador the sport has ever known, and he’s not even close. Take the final minutes of Monday night’s Game 1 blowout victory as Examples A, B and C. Screaming “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” in Kevin Garnett‘s face after a run-of-the-mill foul, putting a [stuff]-eating grin on his own mug during the ensuing free throws and throwing behind-the-back passes in the waning moments of a 15-point game.
There’s gamesmanship (see: Garnett, Kevin), and then there’s sportsmanship. How James painted the final strokes of his destruction of the Celtics (32 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks) isn’t how I remember Michael Jordan eviscerating his opponents. Heck, he makes Kobe Bryant seem as diplomatic as Benjamin Franklin.
Relax, LeBron, you defeated a past-its-prime championship team with two of its Big Four hobbled by knee and ankle injuries in Game 1 of a seven-game series. That’s what’s supposed to happen when you’re favored by eight. And don’t think the C’s didn’t take notice of James disrespecting his elders, either.
“They’re home, they’re comfortable, and when you’re comfortable you do things like that,” Garnett told reporters in Miami. “We have to show them, to take them out of their comfort zone. We’ve got to fight a lot harder.”
Added Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, “Nothing dirty, but those guys have got to hit the deck, too.”
Rondo knows dirty, because Wade taught him the ultimate lesson when he dragged him down on his elbow and dislocated it during the Eastern Conference semifinals a season ago.
Wade used to be the guy lauded for his toughness — the whole falling down seven times and getting up eight bit — and the basketball world loved him for it. Now he’s the guy who broke Bryant’s nose in the NBA All-Star Game, shoved Rip Hamilton for no apparent reason and tackled Darren Collison just last playoff round.
Maybe LeBron rubbed off on him. Same goes for Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman, who recently played the parts of John Kreese and Johnny Lawrence as the Heat turned their semifinal series against the Pacers into the All-Valley Karate Championship. Fitting, though, since the Heat are the Cobra Kai of the NBA.
Only this dojo is set in Miami, where attendants, donning white shirts to give the arena that charming hospital feel, must be encouraged to “Fan Up” until the final whistle. The irony is that, once his desperation to be admired as a winner finally results in an NBA title this year or next, James will have lost all respect in the process.
But what do I know? I’m just another Bostonian.
(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)