In the bigger scheme of things, the outcome didn’t really matter. Still, it’s us against them…New York vs. Los Angeles, Bad Boy vs. Death Row, Yankees vs. Dodgers, East Coast vs. West Coast and yeah, the Knicks vs. the Lakers! For a good minute now when the later pairing met up, the needle didn’t move in the world of sports. In fact, it didn’t matter much in the world of basketball. The most ardent fans cared most, especially since the retirement of Kobe—there wasn’t even that mega star that the Garden faithful could root for or against. That changed July 9 when the most popular, arguably the best, player in the National Basketball Association, LeBron James, signed on with the Los Angeles Lakers for the next four years. We can only see James in the flesh against the Knicks four more times, unless James extends his contract or the fortunes of the N.Y. home-team changes drastically and we clash in the finals. (That’s today’s Conceive, Believe, Achieve moment.)
This past Sunday, James made his celebrated debut at Madison Square Garden donning the purple and gold. When the league announced the date of the contest, the date was immediately circled by fans. With both teams having underwhelming seasons however, what was expected to be an event was reduced to just a game. Except for those that were in the building. The dream scenario was to see James show out and the Knicks get the sweet no look pass, a break away vicious rim-rocking slam dunk and a potential game-winning shot being blocked over the course of 48 minutes, and low and behold we got it. Now we can get home, catch the highlights and bask, right? Nah! Who knew that a bigger issue would emerge.
Turns out that during the broadcast, in the first quarter no less, New York Knick commentator Walt Frazier offered some choice words to the television audience about behavior that was obvious to those in the building. During a break in the action James posted up at the end of the Laker bench apart from the teammates and coaches that were huddling up. Frazier let off, “When you’re the face of the NBA, I think you should be more a part of your team no matter what is going on. In the public you got to be a part of the team. In the locker room you’re not, but you have to exude that type of togetherness in public, folks. And right now we see he doesn’t really care.” Where’s the lie? The optics read that James is not really feelin’ what his coaches got to say. It isn’t his problem, but he’ll be the solution. We’ve seen this behavior from this dude before, so it’s expected. He does only seem to be happy and engaged when things are in his favor. He chose the Lakers and the core of young talent the team possesses. Now that the season hasn’t gone as planned, he needs more. Here’s the thing though, he has help! Dude wants a HOUSE! Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Kawai Leonard and Kyrie Leonard plus himself would be his dream squad, but he’d settle for two.
While this is a real perception, many fans and broadcasters came to James’ defense. Perhaps the most vociferous being former NBA player turned analyst, Stephen Jackson, who offered the following about Frazier: “You just jumping on the coattails just like the rest of these people with fake news and as a player you should know better. LeBron has been one of the best players, a solid teammate, a solid guy his whole career. Now you saying he ain’t with the team because they losing.” He concludes, “What sucks to me is that it’s players spreading the BS about players. I was born in 1978. I don’t know nothing about Walt. Players today don’t know about him either. Don’t get mad at me, it’s facts.”
Here’s some more facts my dude. Frazier is not a run-of-the-mill ex player. He’s CLYDE! When you step into Madison Square Garden and see those World Championship Banners (right next to his retired number 10) he led the charge to those. If you visit the Basketball Hall of Fame, you’ll see his plaque enshrined. Oh yeah, his signature shoes been hot on the streets since 1973. He has credentials to speak and his words carry weight in the world of ball, my dude. He remembers what the game was when it was on life support and wants to see it continue to strive. Take heed!
Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.