What should he do?
What should LeBron James do…when he plays basketball with children?
Should he school them mercilessly while channeling Michael Jordan’s frighteningly competitive fire?
Or should he have a little fun and give them a chance to make a play against the King?
Although we’re not used to judging LeBron based on his basketball performances outside of the NBA, there have been two videos circulating this summer that sort of epitomize the ludicrous double-standards we hold for Mr. James. The online reaction to these videos helps to explain why, in the eyes of so many people, LBJ just can’t win.
In the first clip, we see LeBron at a basketball camp with young kids, playing a game of knockout. Then we see him dunk on one of said youths, knocking him to the ground. Deadspin covered the video with a headline that emphasized the gratuitous nature of LeBron’s dunk, pointing out that it was a “casual game” in which LeBron wanted to “stay alive” by knocking out a kid who looks no older than 13. The whole thing, intentionally or not, conjures images of a pouty LeBron in the wake of his Finals defeat, too proud to be knocked out of a petty playground game. Of course, most people will see, as the Deadspin article points out, that LeBron was just trying to have fun and “humor the young’ns” with some sweet dunks, however, there are still those who will add that clip to their personal stack of evidence that proves LeBron is an asshole. (LeBron gave the kid a pair of his shoes as an apology for knocking him over)
In the second clip, we see LeBron at some sort of Nike-sponsored basketball exhibition game in Taiwan. LeBron is playing on a team with four other kids who hardly look like they’ve hit puberty. And he’s going against a team of five young basketball players approximately in their 20’s. If you’re sticking LeBron with a bunch of 10-year-olds, you’re basically saying let’s see if he can go 5 vs. 1…and you’re obviously hoping he’s going to do a little showboating along the way. As LeBron lackadaisically shows off some of his dribbling skills, he loses the ball, jogs after the recipient of the steal, and throws his arms up for a half-hearted block attempt as the player dunks the ball. Soon after the video made its rounds on the internet, it became prime fodder for LeBron-hating because 1) it shows LeBron screwing up at basketball and 2) he screwed up against a smaller, younger, Asian player.
Any headline that attempts to portray the clip as embarrassing for LeBron while simultaneously emphasizing it was an “Asian kid” who “schooled” him, unfairly adds racist undertones to the whole story. Yes, there aren’t many Asian players in the NBA, but no, we don’t need to be reminded of this because it might heighten the extent to which LeBron is mocked for getting beat.
In both clips we find a casual game of basketball with a handful of young kids involved, however, in one instance we find LeBron being mocked for his bully-like dunk, and in the other, we find him being ridiculed for allowing one. If that’s not an unfair double-standard then I don’t know what is. Sometimes this guy just can’t win.