June 10, 2011
As LeBron James(notes) has moved through these playoffs, one of his most notable trademarks has been missing. No, I speak not of fourth-quarter scoring -- it's his game-opening chalk toss. While anyone who sits in the first few rows behind the scorer's table is thankful for this change, it's a little odd that LeBron would cast aside one of his most recognizable routines.
But fear not, NBA branding experts, because James is going to bring back the chalk toss next season. From Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel:
Bypassing his trademark chalk toss at the beginning of games since the start of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat forward LeBron James said Thursday the tradition will resume next season.
"I'll get back to it, I'll get back to it," James said during a private moment, when asked about the disappearing powder, shortly after the Heat completed preparations for Thursday night's Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks at AmericanAirlines Center.
A ritual James continued through the opening round of the playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers, the toss has been replaced by a low-key clapping of rosin to dry his hands just before he takes the court for the opening tip.
Low-key clapping is nice and humble, but real champions throw a bunch of dust into the air so it dries out everyone's contacts and ruins shirts. Miami even instituted their "White Out" tradition so that no one's clothes would look stupid during and after the game. There's only one type of white powder acceptable in South Beach clubs, and it's not chalk.
For three series now, LeBron has not thrown chalk in the air, and, to be honest, I haven't noticed. Except I think that's a function of how unremarkable the gesture has become; I just expect it to occur before every game and don't pay it any mind. Given how iconic the toss has become to his career, it's curious that he would decide it somehow wasn't serious enough to do during a playoff run. It'd be like if Jason Terry stopped wearing five pairs of socks during every game because he thought it wasn't professional. The chalk toss is a part of the experience of LeBron James on a basketball court. Why wouldn't it be a part of his playoff run, too?
I suppose it's a gesture of humility, but those things matter little when his in-game production stands paramount for every fan who watches these games. LeBron has had plenty of swagger without the chalk toss -- please remember that he was the best player in the NBA against both Boston and Chicago -- so it's not as if putting aside the routine has substantively changed his play on the court. It's just a stupid pregame routine that most people haven't even noticed for its absence over the past month. At this point in his career, people care about James' production in big games even more than whether his team wins or loses. We're so far beyond the chalk toss that I wonder if people can even remember what it was like to enjoy watching James play an average game.