5.24.2007

Snack on Coarsened Paint



My day is a carcass, but I wanted to get two thoughts out there. First, the LeBron James issue. It's all over the smart internet today, I'm guessing because of this Think Progress post. While I dealt with the basics a week ago, I do have a slightly more nuanced two cents on the subject.

I'm sure this will come as a crotchety disappointment to some, but I expect no less of professional athletes. Sure, it's news when Josh Howard or Etan Thomas speaks out on an issue; that doesn't mean that every inaction on an athlete's part is newsworthy. Especially not among superstars, who don't really interact with the outside world in the same way the rest of us do--theirs is highly mediated, filtered, and prioritized. If LeBron were indeed an outlier (among players of his caliber, who are the only ones this would be noticed with), and sports culture as a whole was riding a tide of awareness and politicization, this would be worth harping on. I don't see, though, how James embodying the status quo is cause for alarm. Sports is not the early Soviet Union; the vanguard of entertainment has no necessary correlation with the vanguard of social thought. That Shaun Penn is a fine, daring actor really does nothing to make me think he's a worthy agitator for liberalism.

Here's where the water starts to shed: "anti-genocide" is not a subjective stance in the same that "pro-Obama" would be. A stand like "anti-genocide" requires only moral clarity and is hard to dispute, while "pro-Obama" would be more slippery and require some degree of commitment. If the distinction between the two is being blurred here, though, I don't think it's fair to blame LeBron. Fat people in poor neighborhoods shouldn't eat so much fast food, but McDonald's is the real enemy. It's not on LeBron that sports culture has been drained of its political valence, or that to him anything involving world affairs is kryptonite. It's Nike, the league, coaches, the sponsors, and other players who keep these issues out of athletes' field of vision. Expecting LeBron to grasp and reverse a symptom is some 2003 draft night level hyperbole.



Oh, and a note to my fellow liberals: even when young black men get rich off of sports, they are still young black men. Same goes for when they fuck with dogfighting. I know that they've let you down a lot since the Civil Rights Movement, but try and mind your rhetoric of bodies, thugs, and stupidity a little.

Also, I noticed a few commenters wanting to hear some thoughts on the lottery as something in itself, not just the preamble to this draft class taking form. To you, I give: the lottery is beautiful exactly because it throws the whole world into upheaval in a single night. Of course two franchises saved for good, and two more lowering themselves into a suicidal depths of regret, is going to reach an audience in a way Spurs/Jazz never could. A more "fair" system would render justice, and a more rational one might eliminate the threat of tankers. But only with this current, rapturously imperfect design do we get an evening practically hard-wired for some kind of melodrama.

69 Comments:

At 5/24/2007 3:58 PM, Anonymous neck of eackles said...

Isn't the significant fact here that Lebron IS an outlier? Everyone on the team signed Newble's letter except Lebron and Damon Jones. Negligence, ignorance, etc -- these don't necessarily excuse any sins, but they do at least help explain them. But in this case, it seems that it required an active decision not to sign.

Look, it can't be easy being a human corporate embodiment. And I can see how that could become paralyzing. But no one (or no one other than Ralph Nader) is asking Lebron to be Jim Brown, or even Etan Thomas. The standard here is much lower, and he seems to be failing even that.

 
At 5/24/2007 4:04 PM, Anonymous neck of eackles said...

Also, this post verges on... well, I don't want to misread it, but a crankier commenter than I might call it condescending. We're supposed to think that Lebron's brain has been so molded by Nike that we can't hold him responsible for priorities outside advertising campaigns?

 
At 5/24/2007 4:11 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

It's quite possible that LeBron is just as apathetic and disinterested by events off the court as he is by the ones on it. We should also keep in mind that criticizing a country as prominent as China would hurt LeBron in his foremost stated goal to become a global icon. To quote His Airness: "Republicans buy shoes too."

 
At 5/24/2007 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

agree w/ noe. lebron isn't being asked to be a crusader. he was asked to sign a document which in turn brings further to light an issue that could use every bullhorn it could get.

 
At 5/24/2007 4:47 PM, Blogger Brian said...

I don't feel you at all on this issue, BS. Maybe there's a commentator or two out there who's pulling out racist knee-jerk reactions to LB's disinterest, but that doesn't mean that the flip side - valuing public figures who are capable of at least rubber stamping important ethical issues - is somehow unfair treatment. So you're saying we shouldn't expect young black men to care about global issues? That's pretty absurd. I know the issue here isn't that LB likes genocide but that he's beholden to so many massive contracts that he's afraid to even potentially rock the boat, but isn't that still on him - the peculiar Lebron style of very aggressively submitting to what is expected/asked of him?

 
At 5/24/2007 5:06 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

wasn't anyone here doing it, but elsewhere on the webs. . . and one time some guy from PETA sent me a link to their blog entry about artest and dogs.

i think lebron is insulated from the outside world, just as most all-stars probably are. it's no accident that ira newble was the catalyst behind this--he's got less nba stuff to worry about, so he can do shit like, i don't know, watch "hotel rwanda" and read the newspaper.

i know that he's being asked for the bare minimum here, but that he doesn't recognize how bad this looks seems to me an indictment of the system. lebron james has been raised since a young age to play basketball and make money for others playing basketball. i don't see wade or arenas objecting to genocide, either.

 
At 5/24/2007 5:08 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

it's like, if athletes were brought along differently and treated as people, maybe they would act like that. expecting lebron to buck that trend FOR SUPERSTARS is a lot to expect for no reason in particular.

 
At 5/24/2007 5:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

okay, made an edit up top. thanks for helping me get my thoughts straightened out here.

i just don't think it's fair to blame lebron for a climate of political apathy among important players.

and ever wonder why the head of the players union is never a star?

 
At 5/24/2007 5:19 PM, Blogger dickie said...

This is all horseshit. Let's examine the chain of responsibility here.

a)Tribal Africans are being killed by Arab Muslims in Sudan, who do business with

b)Chinese petroleum corporations, who are controlled by

c)the Chinese government, who are hosting

d)the 2008 Olympics, which features players from

e)the NBA, of which,

f)LeBron James is a marquee player.

Does anyone really believe that letter f) above has anything to do with the real problem? If LeBron James signed that letter, would it do anything to save even one life? Frankly, I think it's pretty brave of him to call bullshit on the whole thing.

 
At 5/24/2007 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

shoals, i think i get what you're saying now, however i just don't see how being insulated has anything to do with this particular instance. jones should absolutely be mentioned here as well, because this seems more like financial self interest than apathy/insulation.

wade and gil weren't asked to sign the petition as far as i know. lebron was. the most aloof person in the world would still know that standing up for a case like genocide (and by "standing up" i mean "take notice"), is something one should be beholden to.

i don't know, maybe i'm just missing the point.

 
At 5/24/2007 5:25 PM, Anonymous spider said...

Lebron has an odd habit of hamhandedly constructing his own mythology on dimensions that should be proven through acts, but instead he just asserts in words. To wit:


[about 2008 Olympics]
"Me being a professional and [Colangelo] being a professional also, we'll sit down and talk about it at the end of the year," James said. "It's not a big problem.”




[Looking back on 2006 playoffs]
"Me being a winner, it hurt a lot," James said Sunday in Cleveland before the Cavs made the short trip to Detroit. "We didn't play well enough to win, and they definitely took it to us in Game 7. We just didn't have it."



[Before the 2003 draft]
"To all the positions, I just bring the determination to win. Me being an unselfish player, I think that can carry on to my teammates.


Clearly he doesn't want anyone writing his story for him. But he miscalculated with this Darfur thing...

 
At 5/24/2007 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you said "the Lebron James issue" I thought you were actually going to talk about something relevant, like whether he should shoot or pass at the end of games. Instead we get this Darfur nonsense. What does he know about Darfur? What expertise does he have? Which are greater, the benefits to the world community of greater inclusion and acceptance of China, the world's largest and fastest-growing nation, or the benefits of Chinese oil companies doing marginally less business with the Sudan? Are you so certain you know the answer?

 
At 5/24/2007 5:26 PM, Blogger dickie said...

Also, in this matter I think LBJ is following the course set by his business mentor Warren Buffett, who recently shot down a similarly misguided effort.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-na-berkshire6may06,1,5791732.story?coll=la-news-a_section

[not sure how to make a direct link to that story]

 
At 5/24/2007 5:27 PM, Blogger Cameron said...

Doesn't LeBron have the stated ambition of becoming a "global icon" and the "richest man in the world" primarily by appealing to the massive (and growing) market of basketball fans in Chia? Why would anyone expect him to sign a letter chastising China for their complicity in Darfur.

 
At 5/24/2007 5:28 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

the insulation would work in two ways. obviously, it would mean knowing about it in the first place. but also, it's the more general thing of having a sense of the world outside of yourself. not that i'm saying lebron is spoiled, or dumb (he's not). but WILLIAM RHODEN ALERT the guy has had a one-track life since he was thirteen.

 
At 5/24/2007 5:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Oh, and a note to my fellow liberals: even when young black men get rich off of sports, they are still young black men. Same goes for when they fuck with dogfighting. I know that they've let you down a lot since the Civil Rights Movement, but try and mind your rhetoric of bodies, thugs, and stupidity a little."

So let's apply this logic fairly across the black athlete spectrum.
Kobe?
Ron Artest?
Eddie Griffin???

 
At 5/24/2007 5:47 PM, Anonymous Jaz said...

Mr. Shoals, since you are moving to Seattle, you will have found a true home here. This is a hive of sanctimonious moral posturing.

 
At 5/24/2007 5:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

wait, are you calling me sanctimonious? for saying that people need to stop expecting twenty-two year-old NBA players to be moral compasses?

 
At 5/24/2007 6:11 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

LBJ is perplexing. But I think the problem lies more with me than with him. I want him to be everything that his talent and native intelligence seem to make it possible for him to be. I want him to dunk over Tayshaun rather than pass to Donyell. I want him to use his visibility and leverage with Nike to do something morally relevant. But I'm not convinced that he owes me any of that, just because he's got fame and money. He has the right to be the person he wants to be, not the person I want him to be. And I'm unsure that he deserves particular criticism for doing the latter.

More specific to the issue of the petition, the criticisms being leveled seem somewhat born of a false dichotomy: not signing doesn't mean that his corporate interests ($$$$) prevent him from caring about genocide. It just makes him like most Americans, not just young black male Americans, and most of the world for that matter: interested in other things. If his focus now is on balling and being the first billionaire athlete, that's on him. Gates and Buffet are now lauded for their philanthropy, but what the fuck did either of them have to say about genocide or poverty or disease when they were 22? They were focused on their interests (technology monopolies and making billions for doing nothing, respectively), not on socially relevant issues.

And although I realize that Bron's response ("I need more information") was BS, that doesn't make it unreasonable. Genocide is easy to oppose in principle, but the historical and geopolitical facts of Darfur are fairly complicated. Hesitancy by a 22 year old with a high school education isn't in itself an indication of anything.

In my more charitable moments, I cut LBJ a lot of slack because I want to believe he's going slow with his game and his public persona because he's still figuring some things out. If he takes the time to learn about Darfur and develops a position, great. If that leads him to be the next Jim Brown, even better. If he does neither, but becomes the first billionaire athlete, and never develops a significant philanthropic or humanitarian agenda ... well, he might not have become what I had wanted, but that won't mean that he wasn't interesting.

 
At 5/24/2007 6:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darkofan: It is simply an act of self- determination not to allow yourself to be exploited by political activists looking for a celebrity to lend weight to their position, regardless of the merits of the position, especially when the request is backed by a coercive pressure that you will otherwise be publicly characterized as being in disagreement with teh position by not signing , endorsing , donating , attending , etc. Geopolitics in East Africa is not self- evident like other real acts of selfish obliviousness such as Tiger Woods playing at the restricted golf course, or playing with the NFL scabs of the strike year, or Karl Malone endorsing Republicans.

 
At 5/24/2007 6:19 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

And to add a thought about which Anon 5:26 reminded me: If Bron was supposed to do this to affect China through moral isolation ... That's obviously an established approach to foreign relations and does allow one a certain moral position in one's dealings (as long as one is not also a hypocrite). But it isn't only method. And if Our Dear Leader has proven anything over six years, it's about the importance of not excluding through rhetoric a full range of diplomatic options. Ultimately, a practical approach of articulating moral differences but remaining actively involved through diplomacy and trade with China may be more effective in helping move that country in the direction that many think that it should.

 
At 5/24/2007 6:30 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

also, at the risk of sounding like a dick, let's not rush to give the other cavs too much credit. ira newble saw "hotel rwanda," found out about genocide and got told that it was going on somewhere else, and got motivated. that's setting the bar awfully low, isn't it?

i mean, good for him, but like i said, it's not like political/geopolitical issues are a regular part of the nba lifestyle. that newble did this is kind of an awkward fluke. which makes it a lot more difficult for me to feel like lebron HAS to sign this thing or risk ridicule.

 
At 5/24/2007 6:40 PM, Anonymous Jaz said...

On the contrary, Mr. Shoals, Seattle is a target-rich environment for those inclined to go after the sanctimonious. Happy hunting! (Thar she blows!)

 
At 5/24/2007 6:43 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

jaz--gotcha. that's how i read it, but you can never be too careful. and lord knows i can be pretty sanctimonius myself.

 
At 5/24/2007 6:51 PM, Anonymous neck of eackles said...

Whether isolation or engagement is a better general approach is irrelevant here. We're not talking about divestment or embassies or anything. We're just talking about signing your name to a document saying that the policy is immoral -- ie, mr. six's "articulating moral differences."

How much affect this petition would have is hard to say. Maybe none -- it's just a piece of paper. That said, China's excitement about the Olympics has a ton to do with global perception. (Maybe T. has some insight here.) They even hired Spielberg to film the thing.

None of this makes Lebron a terrible person. But the defenses here all seem so blurry. Anon 6:17's list of supposedly truly self-evident issues -- NFL scabs, golf courses -- I mean, compared to Darfur, who the fuck cares about anything that occurs on a golf course? We're not looking for Lebron to be a moral compass, just a decent person, even a decent 22-year-old. If anyone here was handed a Darfur petition by a friend and refused to sign it, I'd wonder about that just the same.

 
At 5/24/2007 7:01 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

well, for one thing, i'm sure plenty of americans would not sign it because they're apathetic about anything not in the 50 states. case in point that war in iraq.

again, why hold lebron to a higher standard? i know why we want to (mr. six), but why can we rationally do so?

and the thing is, it's not the same as someone handing him the petition on the street. he's lebron james. if he does something, it is visible, publicized, and has consequences. the same is true for him not doing something, which i think he underestimated (as some people have already said).

 
At 5/24/2007 7:02 PM, Anonymous iverson fan said...

I'm delighted that Lebron doesn't give a fuck about politics. And I'm happy that he doesn't pretend to. I get enough self-righteousness from actors these days. Every athlete with a pulse has some bullshit charity that they don't give a fuck about yet they still shovel money and time into it because their PR lady advises it.

On a side note, when guys like Ersan Ilyasova and Dan Gadzuric are shown teaching 7th grade retarded children how to box out at an NBA Cares event, am I the only one laughing?

If an athlete is a humanitarian, great. If not, that's great too. They shouldn't be expected to be anything other than athletes.

 
At 5/24/2007 7:08 PM, Blogger Matt said...

If I were LeBron, I'd hesitate to put my name on a petition to; I'd actually attempt to gather facts (or pay someone to gather the facts) of the matter, try to untangle what's going on over there, what the causes and possible solutions are. Then, alone, I release a statement with recommendations.

LeBron's voice is singularly powerful in athletics, and he's wise not to hand it out indiscriminately, or in an uninformed manner, lest his clout get diminished a la Sean Penn.

Darfur (or any willful, amoral act by a sovereign state for that matter) is not going to be solved by a petition, or even by a boycott, or most other methods in the activist stable. I don't know what might make the killing stop. Lebron doesn't either, and Ira Newble sure as hell doesn't.

While the smart money isn't on LeBron holding his peace out of a desire to conserve social ammunition, to villify him over not wanting to be seen as a silly basketball player is idiotic. More than likely, LeBron doesn't like to lose, and attaching his name to a polemic that accomplishes absolutely nothing is probably too close to losing for his comfort.

 
At 5/24/2007 7:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darkofan: Neck of Eagles confuses the abstract calculus of how to best influence interantional morality,which is highly comnplex and difficult for whole department of state to navigate with the examples cited , of concrete, highly relevant, personal tests of solildarity with humanity and against racial, ethnic and class bias, that do legitimatley test an althlete that were cited in the preceding Dzrkofan comment . Nest says, at once , that the petition was just a piece of paper, and at the same time a profound and transcedent expression on morality. Nest's sentiment actually demonstrtes how much these private petitions trivilizeand distract from authentic, local action and expression.

 
At 5/24/2007 8:13 PM, Blogger T. said...

neck of eackles - the Olympics is pretty the largest PR campaign in history. As a resident (and probably medium term resident here) I am certainly hoping the the Olympics changes China like it did South Korea (pre-1988 S. Korea was beset by all sorts of issues; not quite to the level of China, but it was close to martial law, one party rule through the mid 1980s).

However, I recognize that the ability of a two week long event to change the course of an entire country is pretty limited.

Now as to lebron and darfur - I suspect the knowledge of the Darfur genocide is pretty limited here - but my Chinese online life is limited to looking through basketball, football and sneaker forums - so if people know about it, I still wouldn't see discussion about it because I'm not looking through 3rd world politics discussion forums. I do find it significant that Damon Jones (he of the li ning deal) was the other player not to sign it - I find that significantly points to them thinking about the business of doing business in China, rather than anything.

Now there's an important point of separation that needs to be made between the Chinese government and the Chinese Nike buying population. Remember when the Lebron ads were banned here two years ago? Those ads were shared via youtube and tudou (Chinese video sharing site) here and because of the ban, made MORE popular. Heck, anything that is entertainment wise which is banned (usually novels, but can include movies and tv shows) INCREASES the popularity amongst the young web savvy generation.

There's another component, however, in that the youth in China are fairly nationalistic, and there's somewhat of a nationwide sensitivity with regards to any criticism of the Chinese government.

It's a pretty complex issue, and I can't really think enough to put down a big post with the pressure of having to get dressed for work right now (and I don't want to write about this at work either) but I'll just add for iverson fan - this isn't really "Lebron not giving a fuck about politics" but more Lebron thinking commercially instead of humanely. On the other hand - petitions and letters to the Chinese government do fuck all. They ain't your local congressmen.

 
At 5/24/2007 8:26 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

I'm sorry but I'm inclined to put all this in the "who gives a shit" file. I'm more interested in James' accountability for his on-court actions than some public relations faux pas (in the same vein I generally think famous people are just looking for good press when they step up to speak out on "world issues", because it's hard to believe their sincerity). Jason Whitlock has a great article about James and his play from Game 1 and this season up on AOL today (http://tinyurl.com/23jxbv), here's a snip:

James must recognize that he’s in the early stages of wasting the best basketball body ever known to man.

James, the mini Karl Malone, can’t play with his back to the basket in the low post. Man, that’s like saying Deion Sanders can’t backpedal or Roger Clemens has no control or Floyd Mayweather can’t cuss.

It’s criminal that LeBron is 6-foot-8, sculpted muscle and only has two offensive weapons: the jump shot and dribble penetration. Where is the turnaround jumper from 10 feet? Where is the baby skyhook that Magic Johnson developed? Where is the go-to offensive move that makes James lethal in the final two minutes?

It’s too late to develop those skills for this series. I’m just asking the question: Is LeBron James evolving?

 
At 5/24/2007 8:30 PM, Anonymous iverson fan said...

I doubt Lebron is thinking about any of this at all. His agent has probably told him to be completely neutral on anything remotely political.

 
At 5/24/2007 8:40 PM, Blogger T. said...

iverson fan - you really think Maverick Carter and Randy Mims are thinking about this either? Those guys are his high school basketball teammates (and agent/manager). I don't see how they'd have any more developed sense of self then he does.

I'll bet you LeBron is thinking about his global interests (and those of Nike) in China. He thinks about it all time - he went to the trouble of having some mandarin lessons in preperation of his trip here last year. You think he doesn't think about this all the time? He's very calculated about his business interests. Biz Lebron, remember?

 
At 5/24/2007 9:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as LeBron James the player goes:

GEE, YA THINK the offseason filled with commercials, endorsements, vacations might be better spent *GASP* WORKING ON HIS GAME?!?! It's almost as if the time being taken away from a solid basketball development routine is affecting him on the court!

Dr. David Thorpe, we need you to shedule LeBron's offseason. Not his Nike consultant.

 
At 5/24/2007 9:03 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

Debates over what fans can expect of players aside, if I met someone on the street who was made aware of the situation in Darfur and declined to attach their name to a petition/cause opposing said genocide, I would probably think a little less of them as a person. I don't really care what responsibilities Lebron may or may not have, but I respect him less as a human being. (Not that someone should be judged solely on their apparent indifference to genocide or that this makes him a bad or mediocre person, but this is definitely minus points.)

 
At 5/24/2007 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't really defend LeBron's position on darfur because I don't know anything about it besides the fact that a genocide is going on... at the same time i'm one of the people who wouldn't sign the position if I was in Lebron's position. Truth be told there are a bunch of petitions i haven't signed personally for issues ranging from African genocide/famine to asian political turmoil. I don't sign them because i don't know who is asking me to sign and I'm not well versed on the issues. Not a supporter of famine or genocide, I'm just someone who doesn't know much about certain issues and unfourtunately is a little too apathetic to find out more.

 
At 5/24/2007 9:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This kneejerk liberalism is frustrating. That Think Progress piece is short on thinking, not to mention evidence. The single thing driving the Sudanese government is oil revenue. That's all. If China leaves someone else will take its place in an instant. China is an easy target because a) they're there now, and b) its easy to sling mud at their government, cause everyone's doing it. Blaming China does nothing to address the source of the problem, and also heavily underestimates the complexity of civil strife in Africa.

Also, one of Lebron's heroes is Warren Buffett, who recently refused to take a stand on this same issue. I don't think its surprising that Lebron has followed suit.

As for the Think Progress piece, the hypocrisy is aggravating. The author demeans Lebron's argument as an excuse for getting more cash, but obviously the author himself (or herself) doesn't know enough to make a substantive point on the issue, other than to quote *one* "expert".

 
At 5/24/2007 9:44 PM, Anonymous db said...

Post is on-point. People who would never do anything about their own government fostering ethnic conflict suddenly hear about death somewhere else and become beacons of moral rectitude. Hooow convenient.
Newble is on his way out of the NBA and his last ditch effort to be relevant is to organize a petition against genocide. Well that's really putting yourself on the line Ira, really tough thing to demand action on, you've got a lot at stake in that one if it doesn't work. Not.

The US government has been advocating for a mandate to act for its own purposes for a long time, while conveniently ignoring ethnic conflicts and death in less strategic situations (say, New Orleans). Wonder if Sudan's situation as an net oil exporter might give them an edge in US priorities over Uganda or the Congo?

James and his advisors are obviously not idiots. The crowd who know nothing about Darfur than what Fox news give them will of course love this opportunity for castigating a star for not only being unpatriotic, but inhuman. That might cost you a little in local endorsements, but that's nothing compared to the downsides from associating yourself with a partisan viewpoint on a complex situation which might end up looking a bit different from outside the US. Especially when there's no clear solution to the problem and the US resists strong coordination with other countries through the UN system (which is obviously the best chance at a politically neutral outcome).

Bottom line is that if you're blaming a 22 year old for not being pressured into a statement on a situation he knows nothing about, your moral compass is a bit screwed up.

(thanks Shoals and FD for providing about the only viable place for discussion of these kinds of issues)

 
At 5/24/2007 9:47 PM, Anonymous Duff Soviet Union said...

"GEE, YA THINK the offseason filled with commercials, endorsements, vacations might be better spent *GASP* WORKING ON HIS GAME?!?! It's almost as if the time being taken away from a solid basketball development routine is affecting him on the court!" You know, people used to say this shit about Shaquille O'Neal when he was young and he turned out ok, didn't he? Calm down a little.

 
At 5/24/2007 9:51 PM, Blogger David said...

Good post, BS. And @ Anon 9:18: I hope I don't sound too grandstandy, but its really really easy to find out about Darfur and it's one of the few things its not cool to be apathetic about. At the risk of sounding like a PSA, just check out savedarfur.com for like five min. If you've got enough time to check out FD, that couldn't hurt.

Also, is it just me or has Ali v. Vietnam become more of a cautionary tale than trail maker? It's like, be afraid, atheletes. This is what will happen if you speak out.

 
At 5/24/2007 10:09 PM, Blogger T. said...

That's all. If China leaves someone else will take its place in an instant. China is an easy target because a) they're there now, and b) its easy to sling mud at their government, cause everyone's doing it. Blaming China does nothing to address the source of the problem, and also heavily underestimates the complexity of civil strife in Africa.

This is I think mostly true, but it doesn't absolve China petrochemical companies of complicity either. Saying "if they weren't doing it, someone else would" - I mean, you can't apply that to other people doing unsavory things, can you? Neighborhood crack dealers?

However, it doesn't address the real issue, and in that anon 9.43 is quite right. But there's no reason you can't address both at the same time. I realize this is diverging away from a LeBron discussion, but FreeDarko is nothing if not filled with kneejerk liberalism.

 
At 5/24/2007 10:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah don't get me wrong... I would love to know more about the darfur conflict but there are a lot of things i would like to be more knowledgeable about. What I should do is start researching them 1 by 1. What I will probably do is continue researching things that pertain to my day to day and remain ignorant on these issues.

 
At 5/24/2007 10:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, there have been some scary-weird comments in this post, we should all stick to ball. seriously, it would take an hour(tops) research on the internet, using credible sources of course, to figure out a) the darfur conflict is mad fucked up and b) china is profitting off the sudanese govt. the Un and the US are who really need to be pressured, but fuck China, they're 3rd on the list. fuck lebron's Nike contract. for real, any journalists with balls would pressure him on that lame ass excuse and have him admit its nike that is keeping him from signing. And people here seem to think that if a geo-political issue is confusing and complex then the moral position is too. wrong. It may take a while to learn all the names of the offshoot guerilla groups fighting there and the various complicated historical reaosn for the conflict (past civil wars, relaitonships with chad, egypt, ect.) but that DOES NOT MEAN that we shouldnt do everything we can to pressure those who can pressure the sudanese govt to let aid groups and UN peacekeepers do their thing to save lives.

 
At 5/24/2007 11:03 PM, Blogger William said...

Lebron sucked tonight. Even if he did get fouled on that last shot, he had some ridiculously bad turnovers throughout the game.

 
At 5/24/2007 11:11 PM, Blogger Ben Q. Rock said...

14 points and 14 rebounds in 31 minutes is FD.

Flopping like crazy is not.

Anderson Varejao, I'm sorry.

 
At 5/24/2007 11:13 PM, Blogger Brian said...

I agree with Shoals that Lebron isn't doing anything out of what is generally done by young superstars in his position...in fact he's certainly more of a moral paragon than MJ/Kobe by absence if not presence.

So I don't think he deserves criticism by not signing, if the reason is because he's not well versed enough on the issue to take a stand.

But just because Lebron's inaction here is perfectly in line with most popular athletes (except, strangely enough in this case, the rest of his team), doesn't mean that we shouldn't be holding athletes to a higher standard than they currently employ. Their limelight and wealth and cultural weight...gives them a unique position to raise youth awareness on things. Why don't they, and why do many think it would be so bad if they would? Obviously not every athlete wants to be respected for being a role model or whatever, but those that do should set a positive example, and if Lebron was scared off from that by his Nike ties....why couldn't he spend half an hour figuring out what was going on?

 
At 5/25/2007 12:14 AM, Anonymous padraig said...

well, a lot of excellent points in this thread and a fair number of preposterous ones as well.

I agree that it's silly to castigate LBJ for not taking a firm public stance on the issue. However it's perfectly reasonable to be disappointed. I'm with T; to me this comes off as commercial savvy trumping all. I seriously doubt that his decision (or that of Damon Jones) was made for any reason besides avoiding the possibility of creating problems with Nike and/or the Chinese government. I understand that it's not an athlete's responsibility to be a force for social change but I, like many, still have an infinitely greater amount of respect for Ali (flaws and all) than I do for Jordan.

It does seem very unfair for anyone to ridicule Ira Newble and the motives of him and his teammates when no one here can know any better what they are than they can LeBron's reasoning. Realpolitik arguments aside about what one believes to be the best policy for Darfur/Sudanese govt/China at least Newble is trying to do something proactive.

 
At 5/25/2007 12:18 AM, Blogger MC Welk said...

I'm still pissed at Damon Jones that they dammed the Yangtze.

 
At 5/25/2007 12:23 AM, Anonymous Anon 9:43 said...

Anon 10:51--

The things you say are certainly correct. I was not advocating non-intervention. I was only trying to bring attention to the fact that the matter at hand (that Lebron didn't sign the petition, and for which reasons) has almost nothing to do with the actual conflict in Sudan. I was walking by the basketball court at west 4th street the other day, and a bunch of college kids were getting petitions signed, asking passers-by "do you care about the environment"? What they really meant was "do you agree with me about the environment?", with the added emphasis of public shame if the passer-by answered that no (luckily in new york pedestrians don't have much sense of shame).

The Think Progress piece is a written version of the same implied persecution. The author, who clearly knows little about Darfur, was persecuting Lebron for his refusal to, in essence, submit to peer pressure and join the public in attacking an easy target. That such an attack will ultimately have little effect other than self-gratification for the attackers is, for the author, besides the point. Progressive thinking is not always the same thing as progress through thinking. I agree with you that more Aid and peace keepers are needed, immediately. But I also think that the great danger in stopgap solutions such as those is that they allow people to feel that they've done something, they've made a difference, and that their work is done. The more challenging, but more frightening, option, is to think beyond reactive policies and contemplate questions like a) in a time of great hostility between islamd and the west, what do we do about a foreign arab government that has shown no regard for its african citizens, and, basically, needs to be deposed, b) how do we prevent the same thing from happening with the next government, c) how do we prevent a mugabe/chavez/et al economic melt-down at the inception of a new goverment? d) can there ever be a distribution of valuable resources that is fair and peaceful, and has such a situation ever even existed without complex, respected ownership systems in place beforehand? Unfortunately, I don't think "send PetroChina a letter" is the answer to any of the above, although I do think Newble did a great thing by drafting the letter, because of the debate that will (hopefully) ensue.

Lastly, I think its ridiculous that we should "stick to ball" because some "scary-weird" things are going on in the comments section. I realize that hip hop + basketball + humanities grad students = liberals, who are often all about "stop X from doing Y". But that strange demograhic brew also creates an environment to which people come for something different, something intelligent. A different view than the norm. If FD stuck to ball, I wouldn't read it.

 
At 5/25/2007 1:14 AM, Blogger JMH said...

You know, I've watched the Bulls (and other NBA games with an interesting plot-line) for as long as I can remember, but I lack intrinsic knowledge of the fundamentals.

I am short, so my sports training was in taking walks, making contact, and smart baserunning.

Is there a website you could recommend that provides higher basketball education with diagrams or possibly video clips?

 
At 5/25/2007 4:29 AM, Blogger Ritchie said...

I think the most unfair thing here is dismissing Newble's action because he's not a star. Even if he's not a megastar who has been raised to play ball from early adolescence like Lebron and even if he is just asking NBAers to sign a petition he is breaking pro-athletes party line of being either apolitical or staunchly conservative status quo lovers. Admittedly most of the loud conservative athletes are white but that only magnifies the gesture when someone like Newble or Adonal Foyle or Josh Howard speaks his mind and supports a liberal or progressive cause. If anything Shoals it seems like you are conflating the fact that Lebron's apolitical attitude doesn't prevent you from cheering for him on the court with how we should view LBJ's actions while tabling the NBA. Why defend anyone's indifference to issues around the world. That's a problem in our country. And while the system that takes phenom kids like Lebron at 13 and tells them the only important thing in the world is basketball deserves your criticism, criticizing the individual and criticizing the system which produced the individual are not mutually exclusive.

 
At 5/25/2007 4:42 AM, Blogger T. said...

staunchly conservative status quo lovers

Is this true? I mean, sure, there's the Schillings, Karl Malones and Rockers of the world, but on the other hand there exists a lot of left leaning atheletes - Nash, Foyle, Luke Walton, etc. I just tend to think that there's not a whole lot of outspoken athletes. The should there be is probably a question that will be debated until the end of time.

I'd love to have Battier or Derek Fisher or Ray Allen speak up about something they cared about. But then I really have no interest in hearing what Brad Miller, Stromile Swift or Marquis Daniels have to say.

 
At 5/25/2007 4:58 AM, Blogger T. said...

er, whether there should be, is the question that will be debated.

 
At 5/25/2007 5:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think worse than not taking a stand on China's support of Darfur (which is bad), is the fact that LaBron wasn't willing to help out a teammate. Obviously is Newble, and a bunch of Cavaliers no one's heard of sign a petition it doesn't carry much weight, but if LaBron James signs it, it becomes a big deal. Therefore, even if LaBron doesn't have enough information, or doesn't care, he should have signed it to do his teammate a favor. I would expect him to sign any petition his teammate asked him too, as long as it way out of the mainstream. Instead he left Newble out to dry.

 
At 5/25/2007 5:42 AM, Blogger Ritchie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 5/25/2007 5:43 AM, Blogger Ritchie said...

Is this true? I mean, sure, there's the Schillings, Karl Malones and Rockers of the world, but on the other hand there exists a lot of left leaning atheletes - Nash, Foyle, Luke Walton, etc. I just tend to think that there's not a whole lot of outspoken athletes.

Upon further reflection I imagine it depends on what sport you're looking at. I'm actually a baseball fan above all else and baseball's media ambassadors tend to be white guys. There aren't very many black players and many latino players prefer to speak spanish and therefore don't interview well for an English speaking audience. Rich white guys tend to be conservatives. And if that's not enough, the Colorado Rockies are a born again operation that actively seeks out Christian ballplayers. Being a baseball fan it's way easier to think of conservative athletes. I imagine things are different in basketball where everyone knows what Nas has to say about black republicans.

So in short, white pro athletes strike me as typically conservative, often conservative protestants. Other examples include Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, countless baseball players it wouldn't be worth anyone's time to name. Although I get the feeling most athletes are simply apolitical, living in a world where little matters other than their profession.

 
At 5/25/2007 9:36 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i don't think i was trying to shit on newble as much as i was saying THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENS. like this isn't thomas, foyle, or howard, it was some pretty basic, in-from-the-cold-of-ignorance outrage on newble's part. reinforcing my point that the world of sports is. for the most part, politically apathetic or immature.

so that could mean that lebron has less of an excuse, but i see it as proof that he's not avoiding something compelling, he's saying "eh" to a proposition that might seem trivial.

NOTE: if it were thomas, foyle, or howard bringing this around, i would feel totally different.

 
At 5/25/2007 11:14 AM, Blogger MCBias said...

I'm guessing Ira Newble will not be on next year's Cavs team...

 
At 5/25/2007 11:39 AM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

I don't think that most pro athletes are conservative on the political spectrum, but I find the pro athletics industry extremely supportive of the status quo, and thus literally conservative.

And for those lauding Newble and castigating Bron, I'd like to point out this: Newble was 19 and in college when things went down in Rwanda. Apparently, like seemingly 99% of Americans, he wasn't aware of it at the time or didn't give a fuck. Thirteen years later, he watches a movie about it and decides he cares about genocide. If he gets a pass for ignoring Rwanda for 13 years, doesn't that mean LBJ shouldn't have to take a stand on genocide until 2020?

(Admittedly, the above represents my continuing frustration over the indifference of the US populace and government about what happened in Rwanda.)

 
At 5/25/2007 11:42 AM, Blogger Rocco Chappelle said...

Firstly, I find it a little more than mildly insulting that anyone could suggest that the way to comprehensively establish one's world view and moral stance on an incredibly complex geopolitical issue such Darfur is to spending 5 minutes on savedarfur.org.

I think too highly of the commentors here to believe that that is the level of rigor that you apply to your personal activism. And it's important that we not be mistaken here, signing a petition is a form of activism, especially if someone as high profile as LBJ does so.

There's such a level of condescension underlying this debate on both sides that I'm having a tough time articulating all of the areas in which I disapprove and disagree.

In short, LeBron James is not beholden to anyone's moral, political, or economic interest beyond his own.

If many of you wish to indulge you're middle class prerogative to engage in armchair activism please feel free to do so but that milquetoast moral outrage is yours to own.

 
At 5/25/2007 1:19 PM, Blogger OG said...

rocco: disingenuous. your comments show you don't think highly of the commentators at all; sounds like a rhetorical strategy to further validify your anger at them. i haven't seen you post in a while but aren't you on the fd innercircle, too? treat the people better, or at least take the time to articulate where you disapprove. otherwise what's the point? might as well try and accomplish something with your comments beyond adding to the collective bristling.

 
At 5/25/2007 1:28 PM, Blogger terriblist said...

"I find it a little more than mildly insulting that anyone could suggest that the way to comprehensively establish one's world view and moral stance on an incredibly complex geopolitical issue such Darfur is to spending 5 minutes on savedarfur.org." How bout addressing that, OG? i don't sign every petition that gets pushed in my face either. you guys are like the soviets up in here. i understand you guys have your thing and all, but why bring up issues if you don't want to hear that you might be wrong? (and you probably won't post this comment, either. hi guys!)

 
At 5/25/2007 1:35 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i could quibble over exactly who "you guys" refers to, since OG's comment was taking "us guys" with posting priveliges to task. but mostly, i am just relieved that you left a comment i don't have to delete.

i will probably never forgive myself for this link.

 
At 5/25/2007 2:09 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Duff Soviet Union said - You know, people used to say this shit about Shaquille O'Neal when he was young and he turned out ok, didn't he?

Shaq turned out the way he did due to his incredible natural abilities, but overall Shaq is really a disappointment. Think of what Shaq could have been if he'd actually worked hard on his game! Shaq most likely would have been hands down the greatest basketball player of all time, but instead he's only got one MVP award and never led the league once in rebounds or blocks (how is that possible for someone his size!?). People talk about how "there will never be another MJ" and that's crap (there seem to be candidates all the time), but the reality is that there would never be another Shaq if Shaq had actually applied himself for more than a few seasons here and there.

LeBron could be like that, with the natural talent that he has. He shouldn't be content with just a perimeter jumper and a barreling drive to the hole. If the guy worked on his fundamentals he'd be ridiculous. Imagine LeBron with a solid post game which included a drop step and a turnaround fadeaway jumper like Mike. Imagine the Cavs running the offense through LeBron in the post or the high post instead of putting the ball in his hands at the top of the key. Imagine LeBron running pick and rolls. The guy needs to wake up and really claim his legacy on the basketball court, otherwise he's gonna simply be known, like Shaq, as a guy who was ultimately an underachiever despite being great.

 
At 5/25/2007 3:28 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

I think LBJ has already demonstrated plenty of skill in the pick and roll.

Regarding the post game, which seems to be the among the current intarwebs critiques du jour, it's likely not particularly developed, but how would any of us know? Mike Brown hasn't even attempted to implement an offense that puts Bron in that position. I mean, he's only among the best passers in the league--already. Why would a coach want to put him in a position to pass from there, in combination with an offense built around cuts and screens? To me, that we don't see LBJ on the block speaks as much to Brown's incompetence as it does to the development of LBJ's post game.

 
At 5/25/2007 6:45 PM, Blogger Ritchie said...

re: Wild Yams on hard work

I think we tend to underestimate how hard guys like Lebron and Shaq work. And overderestimate how easy it is for someone tremendously talented like Lebron to develop new moves. You mentioned, like a few other posters, Jordan's fadeaway. Think about this, Jordan developed that fadeaway after the first retirement once he was already 31. Jordan did a lot of getting by because he was just that much more athletic than everyone else on the floor early in his career. As a Bulls fan I remember interviews with second dynasty Jordan where he talked about changing his game, developing the fadeaway and changing his training regime.

Like H. Abbott at Truehoop, I'm in the camp that Lebron is still figuring his own game out, as well as his own life and our expectations of him at this point are unrealistic. We want him to be Jordan or Magic because he has the skill and we've seen him in the league for a while so it feels like he's not developing but when Jordan was counting the days to his 23rd birthday he had played less than two seasons of NBA ball due to missing almost all of 85-86. LBJ is still a really young guy, we've just seen a lot of him since he was 18. Jordan wasn't Jordan yet when he was 22, the Bulls still had Charles Oakley, we had yet to see the shot, the championships, the fadeaway, etc.

Our expectations of Lebron are so high because while Mike had to carve out his own legacy, Lebron's legacy has been prescribed: by Nike, by ESPN, by Chad Ford, by all of us seeking someone to fill the throne Mike left empty. Democracy is much more difficult than monarchy. The simplicity of a stable monarchy is appealing. Everyone wants one basketball nation under Lebron but only Lebron can let us know when he's ready for that, if he ever is. Above all else time is on his side.

 
At 5/25/2007 7:11 PM, Blogger Ritchie said...

Also speaking of Mike and THE SHOT, check out this video of it. THE SHOT doesn't actually occur until 4 or 5 minutes in but being just a kid when Mike made THE SHOT I didn't realize what happened. Mike, the most athletic basketball player on the planet, beat a one ankled Craig Ehlo off the dribble to get his shot off. There appeared to be some sort of an attempt at a trap but it was late and Ehlo, because he was working with one ankle and because he was just a sixth many anyway and because he was up against Mike, didn't have a chance keeping Mike from driving straight down from the top of the key.

In fact Ehlo gets stuck closer to the help defender where Jordan would have to at least take an angle to the basket and split two defenders. Of course part of this is because Mike could beat Ehlo off the dribble to either side and Ehlo knew it but here's what's important here: Would any coach let that situation happen today? Send a less athletic, injured player out to guard one of the best, most athletic and most electric players in the game? Wasn't there someone on the Cleveland roster who wasn't injured who could try to put a body on Jordan or something? I'm not really complaining, I'm a Bulls fan and it's damn near 20 years ago now but wow. How did Wilkens ever let that happen? And it's not like Jordan wasn't torching Ehlo all game or Jordan wouldn't have already had 42 points.

 
At 5/25/2007 7:57 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

re Ritchie: Jordan did not develop his fadeaway when he was 31, he resorted to it.

 
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