On Monday, we shared footage of LeBron James pulling off a pretty rad mid-air, pass-through-the-legs, off-the-glass, one-handed dunk during the Miami Heat's pregame warm-ups before taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night. In doing so, I wrote that while I totally understand the three-time MVP not wanting to enter the Slam Dunk Contest, displays like that would only increase fan interest in him competing on All-Star Saturday Night.
After this awesome finish prior to Miami's 141-129 double-overtime win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday — in which James tosses the ball to himself along the right baseline, catches it off the bounce on the way up, goes through his legs and hammers it home — those fans' calls are only likely to get louder:
Of course, while some fans frame the pregame exhibitions positively (we enjoy watching these dunks and would like to see more of them in the Dunk Contest), many others take a more negative view (these prove that LeBron's creative enough to win a contest and isn't entering because he's scared or a jerk or whatever). This is why we can't have nice things, and this is why LeBron's thinking of nixing the warm-up acrobatics entirely, according to Michael Wallace of ESPN.com's Heat Index:
The league's reigning three-time MVP said Tuesday he never intended for his acrobatic dunking display in the Heat's layup line to become a potential distraction that apparently has given some critics a chance to slam him.
James has been executing contest-worthy dunks during warm-ups, but has been unwilling throughout his career to participate in the league's dunk contest during All-Star Weekend despite pressure from fans and former players.
"Maybe I should stop because it's making a lot of people mad about what I do," James said after he scored a season-high 40 points and had a career-high 16 assists in Tuesday's double-overtime win against Sacramento. "They're like, 'Well, if you can do it in warm-ups, why don't you [want to] be in the dunk contest?' Stop it.'"
My personal view is, yeah, we should stop complaining about LeBron not going into the Dunk Contest, if for no other reason than I'd like to watch Internet videos of him continuing to do cool stuff before games. To me, this seems like a pretty good reason not to get mad at him; then again, I enjoy simple pleasures. To others, though, I'm guessing the premise of LeBron basically holding his dunks hostage and saying he won't release them unless we meet his demands (which is to say, stop bothering him about the Dunk Contest) won't exactly seem like a bargain. Some fans don't negotiate with dunk terrorists.
Then again, we probably won't have to worry about this too much — I've got a sneaking suspicion that James will continue to put on a pregame show, due in large part to this follow-up passage from Wallace's story:
The Heat have a reputation for late-arriving crowds, but more fans have filled into the arena's lower bowl before games with cell phones or video recorders in hand waiting for James to take the court before games.
The Heat have started to stream video of James' pregame dunks on the team's official website, and owner Micky Arison has used Twitter to encourage fans to arrive to games early if they want to see the show James puts on.
Bingo. So long as there are seats to be filled by adoring fans' butts, parked while holding a night-opening soft (or hard) drink and holding up your phone (turned sideways, please) to film the layup lines, and a team now heavily promoting its unique pregame attraction for early arrivers, there'll be a need for warm-up fireworks, and especially with the likes of teammates Mario Chalmers and "The Birdman" Chris Andersen getting into the mix, it seems like a pretty sound bet that James will keep performing.
Still, maybe we should lighten up with the whole "telling the guy who's performing remarkable feats nightly, both before the game and during it, that he's not performing remarkable feats in every single venue we'd like" thing. We needn't look a gift East Bay Funk Dunk in the mouth, after all.
Video via our friends at the NBA.