Dunks, Lies, And Videotape

By Bill Livingstone
Updated: July 11, 2009

CLEVELAND — In LeBron James’ locker at The Q hangs a photograph of his dunk over Tim Duncan on Nov 3, 2006, in the second game of the season. Any reporter can see it in all its King-sized glory. Like the huge downtown sign says, we are all witnesses.

Except when James and Nike say we aren’t.

When anyone suppresses information, it becomes bigger than it ever was in real life because then the imagination takes wing. Xavier’s Jordan Crawford might only stand 6-4, four inches shorter than James, but he has serious dunking skills as just a few keystrokes on YouTube reveal. He jumped over a rack of balls in one dunk contest and nonchalantly fired one down.

When Crawford reportedly threw down a two-handed facial scrub of a dunk over James in Akron this week, it was videotaped by a free-lancer named Ryan Miller. A short time later, James spoke to a Nike bigwig, then the videos Miller and another unnamed videographer had shot were confiscated.

Videotaping supposedly wasn’t allowed at the session, which involved pick-up games between a team made up of James, Cavs rookies and substitutes vs. one of college players. But no one said anything about not taping until the self-styled King James needed only an application of butter and cinnamon to be toast.

Which is why I don’t buy the excuse that the worldwide purveyor of high-priced sneakers is peddling. Any media member worth his press pass is going to object to authorities confiscating videotape on general principles.

This is a poor show – in fact, a no-show – by Nike and James. At the NBA level, almost everyone gets dunked on eventually. Maybe James was embarrassed by a college kid busting one in his chops.

But Xavier isn’t some half-baked, do-nothing program. Miller said James was the “help” defender on the play, coming over to challenge after Crawford beat Cavs rookie Danny Green.

James might want to check out the YouTube video of John Starks’ baseline drive and wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-lop-bam-boom dunk on the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs years ago. That’s no less than Michael Jordan, who got there too late to jump with Starks, looking helpless on the play.

Some of it comes down to the mystique of the dunk. Fred Carter of NBA TV summed it up when he once said: “When somebody dunks on you, it’s like a slap in the face.

And a slap in the face is worse than a punch in the face.” So there’s some macho credibility at work.

But, believe me, Crawford’s street cred will just get bigger the longer the dunk goes unseen. The poet Homer never described Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world, in the Iliad. He left it up to the imagination of every listener.

Crawford’s dunk is going to beat anything Dominique Wilkins and Jordan cooked up in their memorable All-Star Game slam-dunk contest unless Nike and James come to their senses and release it.

Make some jokes about it in a commercial. Try not to look so incredibly thin-skinned about a young kid’s big moment at your expense. Even making allowances for the vast store of ego that NBA superstars possess, this hide-the-tape thing is moving fully into diva territory.

By the way, when San Antonio and the posterized Duncan met the Cavs in the Finals in 2007, how’d that turn out?