I saw LeBron James do something in Game 5 of their best- of-seven series with the Indiana Pacers and I'm having a hard time getting over it. I saw King James get hacked by a guy that has been talking about hacking LeBron and the Miami Heat all series. I saw would-be bad boy, Danny Granger, limp away from the entanglement after rolling his ankle during the hackage. But I saw him hack LeBron.
And I saw LeBron James furl his brow, hood his eyes and look away.
I stood up in the viewing room of the compound with arms wide and mouth agape.
LeBron never made eye contact with Granger. He didn't want to make eye contact with Danny Granger. How could he not want to make eye contact with Danny Granger? How King James kept his eyes lowered when this man has made it his mission to let the world know the Indiana Pacers believe manhandling the Heat is the way you beat them? And LeBron James has been the focal point of that dogma.
And you didn't look at him, Lebron?
I realize I am far removed from the clash of competition, obsess on competitive minutia and have not put blood to boil since I retired in 1995, but this act of body language contrition made an impression on me I cannot shake; it seemed craven.
You should know that I am not a LeBron hater. I have great respect for him and although he could have handled his departure from Cleveland with so much more class and dignity, I wish LeBron well. Nor do I do root against the contrived greatness of the Miami Heat even though I do have a problem with LeBron joining them instead of beating them. I am not afraid of greatness and appreciate it in any form.
But LeBron looked away and seemingly would have suffered any hardship before he allowed himself to lock eyes with Granger.
Why the Pacers have adopted this strategy of getting in the face of LeBron and D-Wade and the Heat in general is perplexing? There can be no misunderstanding, this is part of the game plan for the Pacers. We have seen this approach since Game 2 of the series and it has escalated with each game. I have wondered aloud on Arizona Sports 620 where this ill-advised, ill-conceived policy had its genesis.
Then I heard the legendary Larry Bird call the Pacers soft after Game 5 - where flagrant fouls populated the play-by-play like punctuation - and my eyebrows rose.
Suddenly, it dawned on me; it all made sense. This proclamation of physicality, this edict of intimidation was handed down from the President's office. Larry Bird was the mastermind behind the Pacers' policy of bullying the Miami Heat. Frank Vogel seconded the motion and Danny Granger became the tip of the tactical spear.
The better question is: why? Why would Larry Bird believe the Pacers chance of beating the Miami Heat lies within the souls of LeBron James and D-Wade? Did he really believe LeBron could be intimidated? Did he think D-Wade would wilt when confronted? Did he truly believe King James would shrink from the physical pressure the Pacers would apply?
We can argue the merits of this scheme all day but the point is moot: Larry Bird believed LeBron James and Dwyane Wade could be manipulated, controlled, and mitigated through intimidation and fear.
I'm not saying Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers are wrong; I'm saying they should have not made their game plan public knowledge through overt quotes and chest-to- chest, eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations in front of the basketball world. They gave the Heat nowhere to back down and hide.
After all, King James did look away.