From one AAU dad to another: Calm down, LeBron
The NBA has reached its late-summer slumber, more or less, but my Twitter timeline practically blew up last week with messages regarding LeBron James.
The tweets weren't so much about James' antics at his son's AAU game, but people lambasting anyone who would take exception to what James did.
These were mostly NBA people and reporters whose opinions I respect, arguing that James should be praised for being in the gym to support his son, since so many kids grow up without a father.
Here's one example from longtime Wizards bear writer Michael Lee, now with The Athletic: "Folks need to fall back on telling someone how they should parent -- especially if it's positive engagement. Loving your child with enthusiasm, showing support and being there should never be discouraged."
If you missed the video clip, here's a quick rundown: Two players on Bronny James' team completed an alley-oop dunk. James jumped out of his seat on the opposite baseline, ran on the court to celebrate, lost his shoe, went back to retrieve the shoe. When timeout was called, he ran back on the floor to do one of those flying bumps with one of the players involved.
I can relate to this subject because I spent dozens of hours sitting in the stands at AAU games. I've been in gyms where Scottie Pippen or other former NBA players sat front and center, watching their sons play on the opposing team.
My take on James' celebration: It was obnoxious.
It's a little better that he was celebrating a play by other kids, not his own son. When James went out and joined the layup line before a different game, throwing down at least one monster dunk -- who cares? That's entertainment.
The celebration reminds me of the days in Cleveland when James used to dance around on the sideline or play air guitar at the end of blowout games. Joakim Noah surely remembers. He called out James during the game, as most Bulls fans probably recall.
This isn't to say James is a bad father. Even the most ardent Michael Jordan fan should admit James has been an excellent role model during his NBA career. He hasn't gotten in trouble, has been very visible in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, started successful businesses, is supportive of his kids, etc.
You can say this was all fun and games, and it was. But having been through it, AAU basketball isn't really fun and games. It's partly basketball, partly a finely tuned process to separate hardworking families from their hard-earned cash.
To me, AAU basketball is grandparents skipping games because the admission price is so high. It's traveling across two states to play a team from your backyard. It's praying that the ball hog on your team stops shooting long enough for your kid to get a chance.
It's kids who dominate in eighth grade, then stop growing and are ignored by the basketball world when they're in high school. It's paying a $25 admission only to watch the referee, who is probably working his sixth game in a row, call two touch fouls on your kid and send him to the bench.
So, sorry if I can't get into the spirit of James' over-the-top celebration. If I traveled a long way to a tournament and paid a fortune to get in the door, it's not really much fun to see the richest man in the building rub it in everyone's face that his son is better than other ninth-graders.
Joakim, you're with me on this, right?
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls