OAKLAND — And so, once again it is time to consider our feelings about LeBron James and the NBA Finals.
We’re amateur experts here, of course, four-time observers. By now we can now say we hold these truths to be self-evident:
First, James is a surreal force on the floor. Time and time again in Game 1 he found a crease and powered to the basket, finishing despite hands on the ball, body bumps and crazy angles.
Second, no one is exaggerating. He is the whole team. James scored a stat-sheet-blowing 51 points Thursday night. He was 19 for 32 when no one else but Kevin Love and JR Smith made it to double figures or got off more than nine shots.
Third, he is apparently under the impression he has never committed a personal foul in his life. The histrionics after an iffy call — hands on his head as he roams the court, the disbelief, the barking and complaining — are truly operatic. Everybody gripes, but this is a bad look.
And fourth, he’s a bit of a troll. His media session after the overtime loss made that pretty clear. If he gets the wrong question, or doesn’t like the premise, he’s not having it.
We’d like our sports stars to be representative of the greater good. And James has been that off the court. He spoke up after the Charlottesville racial confrontation and has supported Black Lives Matter. Full marks.
Yet he remains a remarkably polarizing figure. It’s odd. He doesn’t leave the court without shaking hands like Houston’s James Harden. Or get into a pointless mini-fight to earn a flagrant foul and ejection with seconds left on the clock like Tristan Thompson.
But he was the first boo at Oracle Arena and remained the primary choice right up until Smith nearly took out Klay Thompson’s leg. Dub Nation then switched to Smith, but LBJ still got his share, particularly after an Academy Award-worthy foul-call protest.
Still, a remarkable player. As Steve Kerr said afterward, “They have a guy who is playing ball at a level I’m not sure anyone’s seen before.”
Watching from the stands, you think: Cue the trumpets. Someday we’ll tell our kids we saw this.
And then James came to the interview room. A friend of mine has a theory. He says if you go to a restaurant with someone, and that person is rude to the waiter, it reveals his true personality.
Reporters are not waiters. But they’re not autograph-seeking fans either. They get to ask questions, some of which the interviewee may not want to answer. There’s a way to handle that.
One issue that came up Thursday night was the jawing between James and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson at the end of overtime. It was obvious LBJ was upset about something and Thompson smiled and raised his hands as if to say: Hey, what’s big deal?
The prevailing theory was that the Cavaliers were miffed that, with the game decided, Shaun Livingston took a shot with just a couple of ticks on the clock.
It’s the old unwritten-rules thing. But that’s the problem with the unwritten part. Taking a shot like that is seen as gratuitous, nose-rubbing-in by some teams. Others, like the Warriors don’t see the big deal.