OK, nobody else seems to want to write this, so apparently I'm going to have to do it.
LeBron James did not exactly show Hall of Fame leadership skills while his team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Yes, his teammate, J.R. Smith, pulled one of the dumbest basketball plays you'll ever see late in the game when he rebounded a missed free throw with 4.7 seconds to go and dribbled the ball swiftly away from scoring territory -- quite obviously thinking his Cleveland Cavaliers were ahead of the Golden State Warriors, rather than tied. A disgraceful boner from a professional player who didn't even have the nerve to admit his mistake after the game.
But James reacted like a child. He showed Smith up on the court with his expression and body language and then went to the bench during the break before overtime and iced him out. Ignored him.
It was the baseball equivalent of a pitcher throwing his arms in the air after a shortstop just made a big error behind him. You just don't do that to a teammate. You tell him to hang in there and that you'll pick him up.
Understand, the Cavaliers had not yet lost the game. They were going into overtime in a contest they were favored to lose by a dozen. And who is to say Smith would have been able to score after that rebound? Or that the Warriors wouldn't have gotten the ball back after a timeout and hit a miracle three-pointer to win?
I believe in similar situations after a gaffe like that one, some cooling off is necessary. Step back for a few seconds and assess the situation. Good leaders don't look at how they just lost, but how they can still win.
And after a long TV timeout, there was none of that. Instead of patting Smith on the shoulder and saying, "Don't worry, we're going to bail you out" or "Hey, we've got your back," James went out in overtime and missed all four of his shots and, in general, seemed to do all he could to show the world that Smith's mistake cost the Cavaliers the game.
Of course on the podium afterwards, James acted as if he was supporting Smith by not criticizing him, but it was too late. His prior actions betrayed him. As the leader of his team, he should have tried to bring his team back together. Instead, he created a divide.
It was a strange game and a lot of Clevelanders came away thinking their team got the shaft. That block/charge call that was reviewed by officials and was (rightfully) switched to a blocking call was the big thing. What amazed me the most about that situation is how many NBA players and coaches know nothing about the rule governing such plays. The media seemed to be more in tune with it than anybody. The officials have the right to review it and they made the right call upon review. Lebron was moving and he wasn't even squared up to the offensive player. The contact with Kevin Durant was made by James' shoulder, not his chest -- which is usually one determining factor by NBA referees.
It was also interesting how ESPN uses former referee Steve Javie as its expert on such matters, who was speaking to the network from the NBA replay headquarters. Fun watching Steve trying to ride the fence by not criticizing his former partners or taking the chance of offending the league. Which is to be expected.
As it turned out, the game was much more memorable than most of us thought it would be. And my biggest memory will be LeBron James not coming to the aid of a teammate.