Magic Johnson, Bow Wow, and LeBron James all try to retain dignity (Getty Images)
Despite the relative blandness of his Karl Malone-inspired in-game dunks, it’s been established recently that LeBron James can be pretty masterful when it comes to dunking as a way of expression – as evidenced by his recent, stunning throwdown during last week’s pregame warm-ups against the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron is on record as saying that he’ll never enter a dunk contest, and in reaction to the fawning (and subsequent questions from media) after his pregame workout he’s even stated that he’ll cut out the crowd-pleasing acrobatic attack if us mugs in the media keep asking him to take part in the darn thing.
Magic Johnson, technically, is part of the media as ESPN’s NBA studio crew. And on Friday, during discussion that should have centered on what potentially could have been the most intriguing matchup of the year between the Heat and Memphis Grizzlies, Johnson decided to waste national airtime talking up something with no significance at all, as is his usual custom. From Reuters:
"Please, LeBron, get in the dunk contest. I'm going to put up a million dollars," former Los Angeles Lakers point guard Johnson said on ESPN's pre-game telecast.
"A million dollars from Magic to LeBron. Please get in the dunk contest. I go every year. I want to see you out there. A million to the winner."
The Heat entered Friday with a 12-game winning streak. The Grizzlies entered with an eight-game winning streak. This could have been the regular season game of the year, and for about 47 minutes of compelling action, it was. Why Magic is declining to use his championship know-how in discussing a potential Finals preview, and instead talk about a dunk contest that we’re two weeks removed from, is beyond me. Why we’re still stuck on this pointlessness after a month that saw James post a shooting percentage of 64 (sixty-four!) percent and a Player Efficiency Rating of over 38 (30 wins you the MVP) is ridiculous.
The guy doesn’t want to do it. LeBron James wants to be known for, silly him, the things that actually count. Like dominating basketball games and winning championships. You know –the things that Michael Jordan decided to do after winning the dunk contest in 1988.
LeBron wasn’t always known for such things. He famously made a point to throw his name into the ring for next year’s competition at the 2009 dunk contest, and infamously made a side show out of his embarrassing free agent decision in 2010. The dude has made plenty of mistakes along the way, and there’s no problem with reminding him of said mistakes.
To a point. I mean, we all said stupid stuff in 2009 and 2010. Hell, Skip Bayless is still saying stupid stuff daily, while refusing to watch actual NBA basketball games and prattling on about dunk contests. Things that matter, to daytime TV hacks.
LeBron James is having a basketball season for the ages. The guy is averaging 27.1 points per game on only 18.1 shots a contest, with 2.5 combined blocks/steals and 15.4 combined rebounds/assists. He shoots 56.4 percent. And you get the feeling his season has barely started, as spring awaits.
Leave the guy alone. He doesn’t really want to spend a basic cable Saturday night dunking with a ball outfitted with soda pop logos, while Nick Cannon annoys everyone in the background. He’s not Magic Johnson, or anyone’s, show pony. His growth since the ridiculousness of ‘The Decision’ in 2010 is proof enough of that.
Magic Johnson, five-time NBA champion, should be more aware of this than anyone. Which is why his remarks are disappointing, even given the typical time-killing of a pointless pregame show.
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