NBC Washington's Sarah Kogod reported over the weekend that LeBron James told a heckling fan that he wanted to kick his tail all over the beltway, and if anyone has a problem with LeBron saying as much to that fan they can just take their heckles somewhere else.
In the fourth quarter of Miami's win over Washington, James was reportedly accosted by Bob Moore, who made mention of that years-old urban legend regarding former James teammate Delonte West, and James' mother Gloria. Something tells me that Moore did quite a bit more than "made mention," actually. Here's the story, from Kogod's Twitter timeline:
LeBron was waiting alone in the backcourt when fan Bob Moore made a comment to LeBron about Delonte West and LeBron's mom…
...Accrding to Moore, LeBron said "The only reason you talk [expletive] is because you know I can't come off the court right now and beat your ass"...
...Also according to Moore, LeBron continued "But if I had a free pass, I'd kick your ass right now."…
...Moore replied "I'm right here baby. Let's go" before security stepped in.
And? Kogod is well within her rights, as she pointed out on her Twitter feed the next day, to state that she believes that "it's not acceptable for ANY athlete to engage a heckling fan in this way," but I could not disagree more.
Is falling back on the tired "I'm going to whup your ass"-retort kind of disappointing? Sure. But Moore wasn't yelling at a TV. He made the choice to engage with someone verbally -- about the dude's mom, no less -- and he's going to have to deal with the middling verbal consequences in response.
James, no pun intended, brings quite a bit of heat on himself. He's made himself a target for years because of his curious choices off the court, and the addendum to the Delonte West rumor are the whispers that "helpers" inside of James' camp actually started that nonsense in a moronic attempt to divert some criticism away from LeBron following his poor showing in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals.
Short of laying a hand on a heckler, though? It's all fair game. I'd say this about Kobe Bryant, and I'd say this about Keith Bogans. Whether the heckler brings up a rumor, an actual conviction and/or failing, or just a lame observation with no merit lodged in reality ("YOU SUCK, BOSH!").
You want to put on your tough guy pants and lob things at athletes just because you paid for a ticket? You're going to have to hear back from them. LeBron, and no other athlete, is under any obligation to offer a meek "thank you for your comment and your continued patronage" as a reply.
He's not managing a Denny's. He's dropping your favorite team's record to 5-22.