LeBron James sticks it to the Cavaliers
January, 12, 2011
By Henry Abbott
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Manny Harris and the Cavaliers took a historic beating in Los Angeles, losing 112-57.
The Cavaliers were humiliated on the Staples Center floor, and on Twitter.
"Crazy. Karma is a b****," LeBron James evidently tweeted, as the Cavaliers were enduring the worst beating in 13 NBA seasons. "Gets you every time. Its not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!"
To some, this is unbelievably crass. To them I say: This ain't nothing. The rhetoric of competitive people often gets out of hand. (Who knows what James said on the court to the Cavaliers when he first returned to Cleveland, but there is zero chance it was milder than "Its not good to wish bad on anybody.") I can't imagine an athlete at any level of the game is all that shocked or dismayed by this talk. Not every competitive person talks trash, but plenty do, and for almost all of them, and a good chunk of spectators, it's part of the fun.
Sports give us permission to be certain kinds of immoderate -- it's one of the great appeals. In this little nook of society, nobody cares how you hold your teacup, or if you remember birthdays. We get to scream and jump and thump our chests. And, yes, stick it to the other guy. That's competition, at it's most naked. It's either exactly what you tune in for, or damn close.
Does that give all trash talk a free pass? No, of course not. Kicking the Cavaliers organization -- a big bunch of people! -- while they're down, as a way to get at one person -- Dan Gilbert -- was a little sloppy and not classy.
Last night we learned James is a dude who talks garden variety -- no, in this case, in fact, mild and quasi-religious -- trash now and again. Not news.
James and Dan Gilbert have history. Bad history. They are both people who generally don't air their harshest emotions in the press, but make exceptions for each other. We know that Gilbert trashed James, insulting him a dozen different ways, in a manner far more indecent, harsh and foolhardy than anything I've ever seen from James, the night of The Decision.
Brian Windhorst reminds us on the Heat Index that James has spoken of Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert like this before, telling GQ over the summer: "I don't think he ever cared about LeBron. My mother always told me: 'You will see the light of people when they hit adversity. You'll get a good sense of their character.' Me and my family have seen the character of that man."
Maybe James was a saint in his relationship with Gilbert, and Gilbert is a nightmare. Maybe Gilbert is fantastic, and James was hellish. Almost certainly, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
If we all knew everything -- if we had real evidence of what James and Gilbert are really like, as people -- perhaps we'd be thrilled to see James needle a powerful ex-boss with a Tweet. Or, maybe, we'd be aghast that Gilbert did so much for James, and then got this as his thanks. We don't know what really happened, which means all we can do assume. And you know what assuming gets you.