Eerie, PennsylvaniaPosted: January 6, 2009
So LeBron James pretty clearly traveled.
The postmortem of this incident raises a lot of really interesting and vexed and probably insoluble for the NBA, its officials, and its fans, especially in the wake of the Tim Donaghy game-fixing scandal. Like, are rules selectively enforced in ways that favor certain star players–or is it the other way around, does the selective enforcement of rules create stars by allowing certain players to gain an advantage which other rule-abiding players cannot? And anyway how is it determined who is a star? Is it just a subconscious, prefrontal cortex assessment on an individual ref’s part, or is there something more convolved and systematic and league-directed going on? And most troubling, what business does DeShawn Stevenson have woofing at King James from the bench while wearing this?
Of special note is LeBron’s postgame response to the call. Check it:
“I took a crab dribble, which is a hesitation dribble, and then two steps. What happens is when you take a crab dribble and you hesitate, that is not one step, because you still basically have a live ball. And then when you go into your one-two, that’s when the steps get counted. So if you look at the play, I take a crab dribble and find a crease and then I take my one-two. So it’s a perfectly legal play, something I’ve always done and always been successful with.”
First thing to note is his liberal statutory interpretation of what constitutes a dribble. As commonly understood, the rules mandate that a player in possession of the ball must dribble once for every step taken, excluding the last two steps, provided those two are taken in the process of taking a shot or making a pass. With the “crab dribble” or whatever, LeBron seems to invert this relationship. Instead of “I’ve taken a step, so I must dribble,” he’s saying something like, “I’ve dribbled, so I get to take a step.” Rather than viewing the rule as a restriction, he’s choosing to see it as some sort of bestowal of a right.
Which is wrong, but also pretty telling. LeBron is admitting to taking three steps, which means–regardless whether it was the right call in that situation, or should have been ignored because of the whole megastar-in-the-deciding-moments-of-a-game corollary–LeBron seems to be admitting that he traveled.
Except that isn’t what he is doing. He confesses to acting in a way that violates a rule, but maintains that he in fact did not violate that rule. His explanation is that the crab dribble is his “trademark move,” and that “it’s a perfectly legal play, something [he's] always done.”
Echoes of this excuse-by-exceptionalism can be heard in movie theaters nationwide right now. At the climactic moment of Ron Howard’s gripping but troubling* “Frost/Nixon”, the glibbly fey Frost manages to wheedle Nixon into proclaiming about an alleged crime that, “when the President does it, it means it isn’t illegal.”
In the movie, this admission is portrayed as audacious and ballsy and pretty incriminating. This is only partly true. Public response to the interviews at the time doesn’t indicate that this moment was a decisive victory for Frost or an American people supposedly hungry for a reckoning. And also, the President is granted some extra-legal privileges, though these privileges are vague and controversial and pretty constrained. Though the words sound downright dastardly coming from Tricky Dick, a whole bunch of administrations have advanced similar claims at some time or another.
This is in no way a defense of Nixon. And anyway Executive Privilege is kinda beside the point, which is that, given his biography, psychology, and stature, Nixon almost undoubtedly and utterly believed that he hadn’t done anything illegal. His response wasn’t cagey, or evasive, or hair-splitting–he truly believed that he, Richard Nixon, had and could do no wrong. He was filled with an unassailable, pathological presumptuousness. Anything he could do he was free to do–which, considering he was a bitter, paranoid, intolerant, and vindictive hard-drinker from nowhere who nevertheless managed somehow to get himself elected to the highest office in the land, was true. Right up until it wasn’t.
Maybe this, to answer an earlier question, is what makes a star a star. In his postgame interviews, LeBron James claims to have watched the replay of his crab dribble 10 times, and still can’t understand what all the hubbub is about. Everyone else who watches it can see the hubbub plain as day. And maybe that’s part of the reason why we’re everyone else, and he’s LeBron James. A world in which he cannot do whatever he wants whenever he wants–in basketball, at least–is literally unenvisionable to him.
Ready to be SOMEWHAT ASTOUNDED! Then continue reading this post!
Some idle basketball-reference.com noodling lead me to the 1992-93 Philadelphia 76ers team page, and just if you will check out this comparison of team-/soulmates Hersey “The Hawk” Hawkins and Jeffrey “The Horn” Hornacek
Hawkins: 20.3 ppg 4.3rpg, 3.9apg, 1.7spg, 2.2TO, 2.3PF, .470FG%, .3973P%, .860FT%
Hornacek: 19.1ppg 4.3rpg, 6.9apg, 1.7spg, 2.8TO, 2.6PF, .470FG%, .3903p%, .865FT%
Eerie, right? And further check this out: both players stood 6’3″ and weighed 190lbs, and both were from Illinois. Also, Hawkins once booked a theater in a warehouse, while Hornacek warehoused a theater in a book.
*Some questions arose regarding the play/movie Frost/Nixon’s faithfulness to its source material. Clearly some dramatic license was needed to turn what was essentially two dudes chatting in a living room into compelling theater/film. But, considering that the play/movie’s plot is the real-life effort to get a real-life person to confess to a real-life scandal using his own words, how much can you amend those real-life words before you betray the motives–and results, for that matter–of those real-life people? I certainly don’t have clue one.