— Xavier's Jordan Crawford threw down a two-handed slam over LeBron James during a pickup game at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron on Monday night. Then the fun really started.
Because there’s video of the event — but it remains to be seen whether you’ll get to watch it. That’s because after the kid went over LeBron, Nike stole the tapes.
A Nike representative said they confiscated the two tapes because they were being shot without authorization. That’s so wrong. One of the cameramen said he had been shooting all day and no one had complained until after LeBron was dunked on and he spoke with a Nike official, and that official took the tapes. So clearly, neither Nike nor LeBron had any problem with two cameramen shooting the proceedings until Crawford had his magic moment.
The story broke all over the Internet on Wednesday afternoon, and then two guys on ESPN, Dan Le Batard and J.A. Adande, defended Nike, of all things. Adande said if the video got out, it would be bad for LeBron's image, and Le Batard said because the video isn't on YouTube, it's as if it didn't happen.
So much for journalists standing up for the little guys. Instead, these guys are holding down the nerd while the bullies take his lunch money.
One of the people whose tape was confiscated was Ryan Miller, a 22-year-old freelance cameraman who had spent an entire day shooting the activity at the LeBron James Skills Academy for ESPNU.
This is Miller’s livelihood, and although he's getting some money from Ben Howland at UCLA, he probably doesn’t get paid in a year what LeBron makes before breakfast every day. But when Crawford went over LeBron and threw one down two-handed, LeBron called over his Nike myrmidon, Lynn Merrit (whose official title is Nike basketball senior director).
Next thing Miller knew, Merritt confiscated the videotapes from Miller and another man. And Miller, who apparently thought that an order from Nike is like an order from Homeland Security, handed it over instead of calling 911 and letting the cops have the camera to preserve the evidence.
Miller said that Merritt invented on the spot a rule prohibiting filming those parts of the workout — apparently the footage in which LeBron is embarrassed.
Poor Miller. He worked all day for this footage. He had shots that were going to light up YouTube. He might have gotten a full-time job out of it. At the very least, he’d get a day’s freelance fee.
And Merritt took it all — not just Crawford’s big moment but everything Miller had shot all day. He stole Miller’s work so that Nike’s rich spokesman wouldn’t be embarrassed.
LeBron usually appears to be a good guy. But when you hang around people like Nike’s toadies, you start to believe the crap they feed you every day. LeBron didn’t shake hands after losing the Eastern Conference finals to the Orlando Magic. Now he’s apparently stealing a man’s work because he wants to protect his image.
Well, LeBron's image is now that of an all-world jerk. If he’d let the tape go, it would have become a sensation, every media outlet in the world would have come to his door to talk about it. All he had to do was laugh and be gracious and congratulate the kid. He’d have grown in stature instead of shrinking.
The behavior of Nike and LeBron is reprehensible. It’s arrogant and disgusting. As The New York Times observed, they’re working from the North Korea school of public relations. (The Times called Nike seeking comment on the incident. Nike declined to comment. They probably need another day or two to decide how best to spin this to their advantage.)
I don’t have to guess that a lot of you will defend Nike and LeBron. LeBatard and Adande are already on board, because LeBron makes commercials for the network and Nike pours money into ESPN, which doesn’t have the professional integrity of a street prostitute.
It’s smart to take the tape? If the tape doesn’t exist, neither does the dunk? Are you guys serious? How in the name of H.L. Mencken, Red Smith, Jim Murray, Dave Anderson, Bob Ryan and Michael Wilbon do you have the effrontery to call yourselves journalists?
Nike was the Greek god of victory. That’s what the word means: victory.
Not anymore. Now it means greed and arrogance.
I’ll give Nike this and only this: When LeBron called for help, Nike’s guy on the ground Just Did It.