The NBA playoffs are a time for athletes, coaches, and analysts alike to get serious about the NBA. While it would seem fairly difficult for a sports league to change its character entirely just because the format of the schedule changes, it's absolutely true that all involved parties approach their playoff games with heightened gravitas. And, if for some reason they don't, they certainly won't say as much in public.
Miami Heat uber-star LeBron James, the best player in the NBA, is no exception. In fact, he's going well beyond superficial changes and living without a cell phone for the duration of the postseason. From Chris Tomasson for FoxSportsFlorida.com (via SLAM):
Sideline reporter Craig Sager interviewed James for NBA TV following Tuesday’s Game 2 against Milwaukee. He asked James about cutting off communication during the playoffs.
“I can use yours?’’ James asked Sager, who said he could borrow his phone. “So there it is, I’ll use yours. ... I’m back before cell phones were invented.’’
It’s the second straight year James has turned off his phone during the playoffs. It worked last season, as James won his first NBA title.
James also vows to do like he did last year and give up Twitter. The last tweet he sent out was last Saturday, the day before Miami’s playoff opener, when he wrote, “Zero Dark Thirty-6 Activated! I'm gone.’’
It's unclear if James has gone Luddite in his life or just at the arena, but either way this registers as a major change for any twentysomething American in 2013. A smartphone is a connection to the outside world, and living without one for any length of time suggests a level of focus that most of his peers would likely choose not to match. He's silencing himself in the name of pursuing a goal.
James has done away with the accoutrements of his professional life several times, both in doing without his phone last season and dumping his pre-game chalk toss from his routine. It's a fitting development for a player who seems to have shed every blemish from his on-court game, refining until he reaches something close to basketball perfection. Why not do the same off the court, as well?
The one potential issue with LeBron's choice is that he's a compensated endorser for Samsung and appears in a national ad campaign for several of their products. Samsung has yet to make a public statement on James's life change, but chances are they want him to promote a lifestyle that requires a smartphone. James is serious about his profession, but a global icon can only alienate his corporate partners so much.