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Something happened on Monday at the LeBron James Skills Academy that I thought was pretty funny when I first heard about it but I had no intention of writing anything on it until it started to pick up steam and is now the hot topic in the NBA.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock then I’m sure you’ve already heard about Jordan Crawford (no relation), a 6’4″ guard from Xavier University and his dunk heard ’round the world. A dunk that unfortunately will never be seen. It happened during a scrimmage between some of the top college players in the country who work as counselor’s at the camp and LeBron James himself.
According to Crawford, the play happened during the first 20 minutes of a game that lasted about two hours. He said he came down the middle of the lane and LeBron was there and he just dunked it. After that play, LeBron called over Lynn Merritt who is Nike Basketball’s Senior Director and they had a conversation. The next thing you know, Merritt confiscated the tapes of the two cameramen who were filming the pick-up game although there are no rules against filming at the camp.
When the news of what happened got to me on Tuesday, I just shook my head. It basically confirmed everything that I’ve been saying about LeBron for a long time — and the very reason why I’m not King James crazy like everyone else seems to be — which is he’s a crybaby and a diva. He’s a very self absorbed person who is very image conscious and thinks everything is about him. This is a guy who takes himself way too seriously.
Getting dunked on is part of the game. It happens to everybody. Sometimes when you’re on the court you just end up being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even King James isn’t immune to that. For someone who is as image conscious as LeBron is, his attempts at “damage control” to try and keep this tape from getting out has done more harm to his reputation than good.
This story is going to evolve into some type of ridiculous barber shop and street corner urban legend that says Jordan Crawford took off from the free throw line, did a 360 between the legs behind the back jam and dunked LeBron as he chased him down and tried block it. I thought Nike wanted us all to be witnesses? I guess this is what you call “Witness Protection”.
If you don’t have Twitter yet then you REALLY need to get it. It breaks news faster than every sports media outlet around. After a day of trades that saw Richard Jefferson go to the Spurs and Randy Foye & Mike Miller go the Wizards, last night the Twit-o-sphere was buzzing at the news the Phoenix Suns had traded Shaquille O’Neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This is a great deal for Phoenix who unloads Shaq’s expiring $20million dollar contract and saves them $10million in the process as they get both Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic who both have expiring contracts as well. It also allows them to go back to the up tempo, run-and-gun style that they’re used to playing instead of the half court style they ran with Shaq which clearly didn’t work.
On the other hand, for the Cleveland Cavaliers it’s very obvious this deal was made in an effort to neutralize Dwight Howard who totally dominated them in the post during the Eastern Conference Finals. And with Shaq’s track record of winning championships with All-Star perimeter players, the front office — and LeBron James who lobbied for Shaq — obviously feel that this is the move that will bring an NBA Championship to northeast Ohio. But I disagree.
Last week when this trade was still a rumor I didn’t feel it would help the Cavs win a championship. In fact, I felt it would put them further away and not bring them any closer than they are now. Now that the deal has been made, I think they’re still the third best team in the Eastern Conference behind a healthy and in tact (see the Rajon Rondo trade rumors) Boston Celtics squad and the Orlando Magic. I know that Shaq is the most dominant big man of all time and he does give them a better low post scoring presence than Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace, but does anybody really think he’s missing piece to the Cavaliers puzzle?
You have to ask yourself these questions. Does Shaquille O’Neal give the Cavs an advantage over the Celtics who have a high/low post combo of Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett? Given Shaq’s age, can the original Superman really neutralize the younger and more athletic Dwight Howard aka Superman II? And if we do finally get to see a Lakers/Cavs finals next year, is he the guy that’s going to get them over the top against another good high/low post combo of Bynum and Gasol should Los Angeles find a way to upgrade at the PG spot and keep Odom and Ariza? I don’t think so.
It’s obvious that Dan Gilbert and Danny Ferry are doing everything they can and pulling out all the stops to try and keep LeBron in Cleveland and showing him that they’re serious about winning a championship. They also know that the window is closing and they only have one year to do it. But I think Shaq’s best days are behind him despite reports that he’s in the best shape of his life. No disrespect to the big fella, but I think the Cavs would have a better chance of winning a championship by bringing in another wing guy to run with LeBron like a Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Ron Artest or Shawn Marion who are all free agents and could’ve been swayed to play in Cleveland if the price was right. This was a very high risk/high reward move and for the sake of the Cavs front office I hope they got it right. If not, they’d better be prepared for life in the basement of the Eastern Conference next year.