When Lebron James - the boy king of Akron - walked off the court at the conclusion of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals last spring without shaking the hands of the victorious players from the Orlando Magic, I took note. Many people did, including NBA Commissioner David Stern. Excuses were made and sort-of-but-not-really apologies were proffered. Any outrage subsided soon subsided, though. Perhaps because the commercials with the puppets were so damn funny. Or maybe because LBJ was so damn good, even in defeat. I mean, he seemed to be playing 1 on 5 when his "team" had the ball and that game-winner in Game 2 was where amazing happened.
But when Lebron was dancing along the sideline in a lopsided win over the Chicago Bulls this season - managing to turn wild-maned jitterbug Joakhim Noah into a spokesman for hoops decorum and respecting the game - I took note again. Perhaps absently-mindful of those two moments, I wrote last week that I'd rather have (a healthy) Chris Paul on the Knickerbockers than Lebron, or anyone else. I'd told a friend on Friday night while watching the Nuggets and Lakers square off that I'd be perfectly happy if the Knicks' Plan C was to land Carmelo Anthony when he becomes a free agent after next season. Rumor has it that after a few beers that I may have even informed a fellow patron at a local tavern that I'd be tickled if the Knicks went with Plan Z and traded for the suspended Gilbert Arenas and signed Amare in the offseason to pair with Lee, Gallo and Chandler. According to my bar tab, I was even out long enough to say that I would rather root for the team trying to topple Lebron than the team that featured him.
And, then James went out on Saturday night and scored 24 of his game-high 47 points consecutively as the Lebronaliers ran away from the Knicks early and then held them off late. Another New York loss. Another night of D'Antoni roster shuffling. Another display of why Lebron is precisely the player that could save this franchise.
Considering how I spend too many hours dispensing blame among various players (some of them not named Chris Duhon) and management for various defeats, I'm willing to concede that this loss may be on me. The King may have spies even in the farthest outposts of the Internets.
I don't know if my souring relationship with our accepted One king and savior is the result of recent outcomes sapping my optimism that he'd ever agree to play in this town, or if years of rooting for underdogs -Knicks, Jets, Mets - and against powerhouse clubs - especially those featuring Michael Jordan and coached by Bill Belichick - have infected me with some sort of sporting equivalent of the Stockholm syndrome, wherein I've developed a psychological fondness for my rotten situation. Whatever the reason, and in spite of LBJ's shocking streak against the Knicks on Saturday, I'm beginning to realize I'd rather overthrow the king than root for him.