Budding Rivalry: LeBron vs. David Stern

by November 10, 2006

By Sam Rubenstein

It’s been widely reported that LeBron James has been expressing his disapproval of the new basketball as well as a few other topics, through many amusing quotes.

“It’s not a good basketball. It kind of feels like a basketball you buy for your kids at Christmas or something.”

“Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s got no consistency.”

“Sometimes you can grip it, and sometimes during the game it sticks to your hand. It won’t bounce, it will just roll on you. I don’t know why we can’t get used to this ball. But it’s just not good.”

“You can shorten our shorts, tell us how to wear wristbands, things like that. Change the dress code. But the one thing we care about is the basketball,” he said. “When you start changing the thing we play with every single day, it doesn’t make sense to me — at all.” (One of yesterday’s quotes of the day in The Links)

“Technicals are being thrown like Peyton Manning passes. You have to watch you say and me being an emotional player, I’ve always been passionate about the game. So I’ve got to be cool.”

If there are two things David Stern wants the world to accept without questioning the vision, it’s

1. His rules.
2. The LeBron machine.

So what are we to make of this potential brewing conflict? Within what seemed like 5 minutes of LeBron taking a public stand against the Sternbot, he was vilified for walking off the court early like Randy Moss. Bron claims that he stayed on the court and was talkng to Joe Johnson at the end of a game. Is it possible that LeBron does this every night but it’s only being reported as a warning shot from up top? If you’re into David Stern conspiracy theories, then your antenna is up already.

I’m pointing to my amateur degree in psychology and I’m going to tell you all a little something that’s been on my mind about LeBron’s psyche recently.

Are Lebron’s new commericals a hidden cry for help? Does he really have characters like the flashy business primadonna, the fun loving kid, and the grumpy old man buried deep inside him, unable to come out? In the commercial where Business Lebron calls dunk contests “bourgeois”, NBA basketball superstar LeBron is sitting there cool, calm, and collected. That’s the LeBron we know. The one that can’t lean too far towards any one side of his personality because he might offend a target audience that has been pre-marketed. It takes the taunting from the other parts of his brain (Business, young kid, old man) to get the cool Lebron to get up and play ball. He even competes in a dunk contest! What some people have declared amazing character acting from an elite athlete, could also be repressed urges finally allowed to surface. I’m on to you, LeBron. I’m on you like stink on SHUT YO MOUTH.

Think about this: People love Gilbert Arenas because he can be his goofy self. Whether he goes on to have a Hall of Fame career or he flames out after a few years of scoring alot of points, it’s not critical to the history of the NBA. He would be just another enjoyable character that came and went. If LeBron fails, and if he doesn’t revolutionize the game, it will be considered a failure or a false prophecy of the Chosen One.

David Stern is widely accepted as the best commissioner in sports. Everyone loved it when he took the NBA to amazing heights through his vision of promoting the individual stars. LeBron has profited greatly from that. As far as NBA salaries go, Michael Jordan never made as much in a year as LeBron did in his rookie year until his thirteenth season. Credit the commish for making the job a lot more lucrative for everyone. I know what you’re thinking. It’s all about the endorsment money. Well, Stern’s promotion machine made it possible for these 7, 8, and 9 figure deals to happen. The same players that are moaning and whining about the tighter rules of today’s league also need to know that 20 years ago the salary cap was $3.6 million. That was the maximum for an ENTIRE TEAM. Under Stern’s leadership they are making more money than they should. Going back at him complaining about rules is what you might call biting the hand that feeds you.

There’s a perception out there that David Stern is going to far with his power, supressing the personality of the players. Stern was untouchable a few years ago, and now there is a hater site FireDavidStern.com that’s swaggerjacking FireJoeMorgan.com. The only person powerful enough to challenge him is LeBron. This past summer, LeBron led a revolt of sorts, getting members if his draft class to re-think the contract re-up process. He is a leader, and the other superstars followed. Hearing LeBron speak up about the ball, going so hard against a Stern directive, is not something we have seen from him in the past.

Is there a brewing conflict or revolt, or am I just making this all up?