- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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James said Tuesday he never intended for his acrobatic dunking display in the Heat's layup line to become a potential distraction that apparently has given some critics a chance to slam him.
James has been executing contest-worthy dunks during warm-ups, but has been unwilling throughout his career to participate in the league's dunk contest during All-Star Weekend despite pressure from fans and former players.
"Maybe I should stop because it's making a lot of people mad about what I do," James said after he scored a season-high 40 points and had a career-high 16 assists in Tuesday's double-overtime win against Sacramento. "They're like, 'Well, if you can do it in warm-ups, why don't you [want to] be in the dunk contest?' Stop it.'"
Videos that fans have taken of James in the layup line have gone viral on the Internet in recent days. One clip taken before Sunday's home game against Cleveland showed the three-time league MVP whipping the ball behind his back, then between his legs before he tossed it off the backboard for a dunk over 6-foot-10 teammate Rashard Lewis.
James was in the act again before Tuesday's game, when he lobbed the ball into the air, caught it off the bounce and shifted the ball between his legs before slamming it through the rim. The Heat have a reputation for late-arriving crowds, but more fans have filled into the arena's lower bowl before games with cell phones or video recorders in hand waiting for James to take the court before games.
The Heat have started to stream video of James' pregame dunks on the team's official website, and owner Micky Arison has used Twitter to encourage fans to arrive to games early if they want to see the show James puts on.
"Everyone stop complaining about @KingJames in the dunk contest," Arison tweeted on Wednesday. "If u want to see him dunk come to the @AAarena. & enjoy the show."
James said Tuesday he wasn't aware of how popular the routine has grown, because it's something he's always done. More Heat players have gotten involved, including Chris Andersen, Mike Miller, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers, who has been James' stiffest competition of late.
"I've been hearing about it," James said. "But I don't really watch TV or go on the Internet too much. As a team, it's kind of our new thing. I've had some good ones, but (Chalmers) doing a 360? That's impressive. We have a little epidemic right now. It's kind of like the Harlem Shake."
8hMicah Adams, ESPN Stats & Information
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10hIan O'Connor, ESPN Senior Writer