We should probably be concerned for our NBA when Jesse Jackson can insert himself into the summer's biggest sports story by insisting that LeBron James is being seen as "a runaway slave'' ... and yet Reverend Jackson is only slightly more out of touch with the situation than is NBA commissioner David Stern.
Stern has observed the potential collusion involved in LeBron and Bosh joining Wade and Pat Riley in Miami ... Is aware that Riley conducted a meeting with LeBron during the regular season that smells illegal ... Must know that his league - so frequently wrongly characterized as a me-first exercise - really was involved in a me-first exercise this time around, lowlighted by that LeBron/ESPN charade known as "The Debacle'' ... er, make that "The Decision'' ... Has heard Mavs owner Mark Cuban leading the chorus of folks wondering if all of this would seem to merit an investigation or at least further study. ... And yet holds a press conference to explain the official Commissioner's Office ruling that the Miami Heat are not pissing on the rules here.
All that splashing is simply the warm sprinkle of a beautiful waterfall.
LeBron's narcissistic tour was within his rights. So was his departure from Leave-land. He was a free agent and he is a businessman. Hey, so was ESPN's bastardization of journalism; somebody made money and Jim Gray got to ask LeBron about his favorite breakfast cereal (or something) and all the little children of the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, Connecticut got their needs met. (Greenwich kids? What do they need? Newer iPads?)
Same rules would seem to apply, though, for Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who responded to LeBron's defection from his home town by releasing a statement in which he referred to James' action as a "cowardly betrayal" and a "shocking act of disloyalty."
But no. ... Stern fined Gilbert $100,000 for his stunning remarks - just as he'd earlier fined Cuban and two other teams for openly noting their interest in LeBron.
The NBA rule actually reads thusly: "Tampering is when a player or team directly or indirectly entices, induces or persuades anybody [player, general manager, etc.] who is under contract with another team to negotiate for their services."
And in the face of that, Stern explains away the clandestine planning sessions of LeBron, Wade and Bosh, sessions that reportedly date all the way back to 2006: "They don't collude, they just sort of talk about how nice it is to be able to play together and they're allowed to do that."
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Jesse Jackson suggests that our objection to any of this is about "feelings of betrayal [that] personify a slave-master mentality. [Owner Gilbert] sees LeBron as a runaway slave."
We don't know of any runaway slaves who got to pick their teammates illegally, who received max contract offers in the process, and who got to appear on their own TV show to announce their "runaway'' destination. But we think nothing Jesse Jackson is saying here is substantially more preposterous than anything David Stern is saying.
Catch the Fish at DallasBasketball.com and follow him on Twitter at FishSports