More Tales From The Tape

By Israel Gutierrez
Updated: July 15, 2009

MIAMI — Please, let this be an act of brilliant, on-the-spot viral advertisement (or nonadvertisement) by Nike.

Please, let some young executive at the world’s most influential shoe company be on the verge of a major promotion.

It’s the only way LeBron James can come out of this hidden-video fiasco without looking like the most childish, egomaniacal, embarrassingly self-absorbed superstar athlete ever.

The story, as has been repeated an endless amount of times, goes that Xavier’s Jordan Crawford dunked on King James during The Chosen One’s basketball camp, and soon after a brief huddle between James and his Nike reps, any video of the act was immediately confiscated.

There is only one way this even approaches excusable.

If, and only if, in that huddle James and his shoe dealers decided that hiding this video and hearing the world’s response would be an inspired way to get the Nike name on the tongue of every sports fan in America (as if there isn’t a permanent swoosh tattoo there already), then James’ act can be considered savvy.

Otherwise, it’s just plain upsetting.

It’s disturbing enough that it can shift the public opinion of an athlete seemingly on the verge of solely dominating the sports landscape. If the decision was strictly made to avoid any public embarrassment, an embarrassment that would have been mild and lasted about two seconds — the equivalent of tripping over your feet while walking down the street and looking around to notice who saw it happen — then James would be viewed as one of the most misguided athletes of our time. He would be the guy who tries too hard to be liked. The guy whose image is more important than his accomplishments. The guy whose own teammates would mock him behind his back and would be a lot more fun to defeat than to run with.

Maybe this is where we should remember that James, who has played six NBA seasons and essentially is the face of the league, is only 24 years old and has been slurping from a silver spoon since he first picked up a basketball.

Maybe that can temper the thoughts of just how selfish a move this was.

Even that is barely an excuse. What, exactly, does some grainy footage of him getting dunked on by a college kid negatively do to James’ image?

The fact that he’s participating in an event that benefits young basketball players is admirable given the potential for injury, so it would be automatically forgiven if he’s not necessarily at the top of his game and lets an athletic college kid have a moment against him.

Instead, not only does James feel the need to hide it for his own ”benefit,” but he denies Crawford his opportunity to shine, even momentarily.

Crawford can’t officially be in any commercials (which is why Nike can never put their brand name on any of the footage if it comes out), so this is the closest he can get to being a star.

That idea, apparently, pales in comparison to James’ need to remain unblemished.

Never mind that he has been dunked on before, with several cameras taping the act. Courtney Lee just managed it during the Eastern Conference finals last season.

Perhaps only Frederic Weiss, a former NBA prospect who Vince Carter flew over during the 2000 Olympics for a dunk, can even suggest that being dunked on altered his career.

And even that is a stretch.

So James has no reason to protect this video other than his immeasurable ego.

James has made some questionable choices lately that make you wonder just how into himself he really is, but until now, there always has been a reasonable excuse.

Not shaking hands with the Magic players after being ousted from the playoffs? It’s hardly a sin. In fact, his reasoning for it — he said he’s a ”winner” and his competitive spirit doesn’t allow him to congratulate anyone who’s defeated him — was worse than the act.

Wearing an LBJ MVP T-shirt in public? The design — an homage to the classic rap group Run DMC — was enough to excuse what looked, on the surface, like an egregious act of self-promotion.

But this? This could be damaging enough to make James the poster child for all that’s wrong with today’s star athletes.

Chris Paul already has mocked him, saying he also dunked on James recently and was denied video evidence. And Kobe Bryant told a member of his camp, ”I’ll tell you one thing, you ain’t dunking on me at my camp,” as an obvious playful jab at James.

This story still has legs because James didn’t just let it be.

The only recovery could be if James shows up at a Cleveland-area carnival with a basket at his back and a trampoline in front of him, allowing anyone who chooses a chance to dunk on him. And Nike would have to make that into a commercial.

So let’s hope James and his representatives will soon say, “Here is the video you’ve all clamored for. It was our plan all along.”

Please, don’t let LeBron be this big a baby.