- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2008

So Brendan Haywood has joined the trash-talking fun by calling LeBron James a crybaby, which is an accurate enough description of someone who believes the Wizards are torturing him with all kinds of medieval devices.

The delusion of James is encouraged by Mike Brown, who coaches under another delusion, namely that James is destined to be the best basketball player there ever was.

This forecast comes before James has won his first NBA championship and ignores the game’s considerable history.

It would be hard to imagine anyone ever duplicating Wilt Chamberlain’s 1961-62 season, when he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds. Chamberlain was virtually washed up the next season, when his averages dipped to 44.8 points and 24.3 rebounds.

Brown is allowed to exaggerate the merits of James because of the job-security benefits. He lives well because of James, whose basketball qualities are undeniable, even while his charisma is found wanting.

Michael Jordan lured most of America to his side after converting his sixth 3-pointer and shrugging his shoulders in the first half of Game 1 in the 1992 NBA Finals.

His was an everyman’s reaction to an extraordinary sequence, as if Jordan was letting America know that he had no explanation for it either. He was one of us in that moment, no different from the spectator who sinks a 3-pointer that wins everyone a free pizza.

Jordan took a beating in the playoffs, especially from the Bad Boys of Motown, back when taking a beating was considered a rite of passage to stardom. Jordan also had to fight through Pat Riley’s Knicks, as ornery and nasty as the Pistons.

The NBA eventually tired of the scrum-like activities on the floor and tightened the rules to an extent that a hard foul today is perceived as a mugging.

James undoubtedly has missed the tape of Kevin McHale clotheslining Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals.

Or Robert Parish punching out Bill Laimbeer in the 1987 playoffs and the referees looking the other way because if there ever was a player who deserved to be punched in the face, it was Laimbeer.

Or Larry Bird and Julius Erving choking each other in a 1984 regular-season game.

The game was a lot more primal before the NBA encouraged players to perform in tutus.

Of course, the tutu belonging to James would come in a shade of pink.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

DeShawn Stevenson knocked off the headband of James in Game 4, and you could have thought Stevenson was guilty of assault and battery.

Such embellishing is customary in Cleveland, where even the elementary comes cloaked in superlatives if James is behind it.

His pass to Delonte West in the final seconds of Game 4 — the object of so much gushing — was hardly awe-inspiring. It was a play that as many as three-quarters of the players in the NBA could have made. It merely required James to spot the second defender drifting toward him and dump the ball to the open teammate on the baseline.

It did not send chills down the back of anyone, excluding the LeBrohava Witnesses of Cleveland, so psychologically crippled by the John Elway Drive, the Earnest Byner Fumble and the Jordan Shot over Craig Ehlo that it indulges anyone it believes could end the championship curse.

That person could be James if the Cavaliers ever acquire an All-Star-worthy No. 2 guy to go with James.

At least that is the thinking in Cleveland.

Haywood identifying James as a crybaby is a fairly pedestrian observation, given how frequently James succumbs to wailing whenever a whistle goes against him.

It is not a becoming reaction of someone who has no equal in the NBA, if you consider his physical and athletic gifts and skill level.

Goliath as a serial crier does not work on a number of levels.

Haywood was correct in noting the annoyance of it all.

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