Monday, January 5, 2009

Fly Me To The Moon

Clocks stopped, dogs buried their poop, George Bush slept in late, and all sorts of craziness happened yesterday as — for the first time in our memory — LeBron James was called yesterday for a travelling violation on a potential game-winning play that he later indignantly described as a perfectly valid “crab dribble” (wha~?). And it was surely the right call:

Here at Jordan Pushed Off, we (at least, I) regard as execrable the phenomenon of “star calls” in the league, and we look forward to a time when all men are deemed equal under the rule of NBA law. What the heck is a crab dribble, anyway? A quick google search, looking for the term “crab dribble” but excluding the term “lebron”, turns up only two basketball-related pages. One is an instructional sheet that apparently equates the crab dribble with a basic back-to-the-defender protective stance, often used by pivotmen in the paint or by guards bringing the ball up the court against pressure. I don't know what school of ball LeBron attended, but I don't think a jump, a hop, and a couple steps were what Mr. Naismith envisioned.

The most amusing element of this scenario was James’s postgame defense of his aborted drive:

“You have your trademark play, and that's one of my plays. It kind of looks like a travel because it's slow, and it's kind of a high-step, but it's a one-two just as fluent as any other one-two in this league. I got the wrong end of it, but I think they need to look at it -- and they need to understand that's not a travel," James said. "It's a perfectly legal play, something I've always done.”

James’s deluded protests reminded me of what Saddam Hussein said to the judge presiding over his tribunal in 2005: “But I am the president of Iraq. I do not recognize this court!” Well, yeah, dude, you used to be, before your lack of legitimacy was laid bare. Perhaps this is cognitive dissonance (his perception of bad ball on his part cannot possibly be squared with his view of himself as a Great One) or some sort of hubris-induced visual processing disorder by James: he really looked at the tape and, in good faith, his brain really cannot see the multiple steps. Or, more likely, perhaps he is aware (if only from a hunchy, lay perspective) of psychological evidence showing that lies repeated often can be persuasive when they feed into pre-existing biases. LeBron wants every referee in the league to begin thinking of “LeBron’s crab dribble” as a permitted category unto itself. I also liked James’s claim of a “trademark move”. Usually if you have a technique all your own, you let others point out your distinctiveness.

I liked the Wizards’ reaction to James's defense, particularly that of Butler:
“ ‘Crab dribble’ is when you, uh, travel,” Butler said. “That's the hottest thing on the market right now.”

Let us hope that asset bubble soon bursts!

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