LeBron James plans to keep pregame dunking routine in spite of criticism

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MIAMI – LeBron James said he has no plans to stop his pregame dunking routine that has drawn headlines – and criticism – over the past week.

"I don't care," James said. "I have been criticized for everything. It doesn't matter to me. That is a small thing on my agenda.

"I'm getting criticized for what I do in warm-ups? Stop."

James and several of his Heat teammates began dunking before games shortly before the NBA All-Star Break. James said guard Mario Chalmers started it in hopes of getting his teammates to break a sweat before games.

The dunk show began receiving national attention prior to last Sunday's game against Cleveland when James tossed the ball through his legs before dunking – while wearing his game sweatsuit. Heat fans are known for arriving late to games, but several of them showed up early for Monday's game against Sacramento to take pictures and video of the dunk show – which also is being streamed live on the team's web site.

James' pregame dunks also have sparked criticism about him never having participated in the NBA's dunk contest. Heat owner Micky Arison used his Twitter account to chide critics.

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"If you want to see him dunk come to @AAarena and enjoy the show," Arison wrote.

James also insinuated his pregame dunks were better than what was seen in the most recent All-Star dunk contest.

"I don't need props and capes and cheerleaders and flight attendants to walk out with me," James said. "I just do it. It just happens like in the game. If you throw a lob I will figure it out when I'm in the air."

James, Chalmers, Ray Allen, Norris Cole, James Jones, Chris Andersen, Joel Anthony and occasionally Dwyane Wade have participated in the pregame dunk ritual. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra scoffed when asked if he is worried about his players getting hurt.

"It's absurd," Spoelstra said. "I mean guys are warming up and dunking. Can we come up with a better storyline than that? So now these guys can't have shooting contests, guys that are shooters?

"So we don't want them to warm up? I like seeing our guys in a lather."

The only major dunk contest James has competed in was as a McDonald's high-school All-America game participant in 2003. James defeated Von Wafer and Shannon Brown in the finals on a one-handed slam that came after catching the ball off the glass. Chris Dennis, who used to run James' charitable foundation, also said James once won a dunk contest during his junior year in high school in his hometown at a three-on-three tournament. His highlight dunk was from the free-throw line.

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Dennis also recalled why James didn't participate in the NBA's dunk contest during his early years in the league.

"I know for a fact in the early years he never thought he was a creative dunker," Dennis told Yahoo! Sports. "He would say, 'I am a game dunker.' He likes the atmosphere. But the next couple of years he would say, 'If I lose, I would look bad.' "

After winning last season's NBA championship, James appears to be having more fun on the court now than ever. He's jokingly tackled a fan who won $75,000 by making a halfcourt shot and thrown two chest passes to a fan during a dead-ball moment in another game. James said he also might soon bring back his pregame chalk ritual.

"We are a close-knit group," James said. "If we were as serious as everyone thinks we should be – and then with everything people say about us – it wouldn't be worth playing for.

"So we've got to have fun with each other."

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