The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

March 29, 2013

NBA should stop thuggish defense used to stop LeBron

By Michael Muldoon CNHI News Service
The Stanly News & Press

Friday, March 29, 2013 — Kirk Hinrich tackled LeBron James. Taj Gibson stopped a James dunk attempt by horse collaring him.

Two innocent plays in a physical basketball game?


Those were just a few of many lowlights as the Bulls ended Miami’s 27-game winning streak by playing old-school basketball. Tom Thibodeau’s team resorted to the Jordan Rules that Chuck Daly’s Detroit Pistons team utilized in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

The “Bad Boys” couldn’t beat him fairly so they tried to maim Michael Jordan with dangerous hard fouls by the likes of Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, Dennis Rodman and Isiah Thomas.

Critics assailed James as a whiner for complaining about the Bulls and the referees after Wednesday’s 101-97 loss, which ended Miami’s run at the NBA’s longest win streak (33 by the 1971-72 Lakers).

I applaud him for standing up to thuggish play.

Basketball is a sport where supreme athleticism and skill should rule. Why punish James for being bigger, faster, stronger, more fit and more skilled than the opposition? Let his once-in-a-generation talents shine through. It’s up to the opposition to figure out a way, within the rules, to stop him.

Do it with nose-to-nose defense, aggressive double teams, confusing zones, long-limbed swingmen, waves of capable back-ups, psychological warfare, shotblocking big men and a championship mindset. Wear him down by making him fight through picks and chase a relentless offensive threat.

This is LeBron Law and this anarchy is wrong just like the Jordan Rules were wrong. Of course, if the league doesn’t check it, it will spread like wildfire because it works.

Don’t give him any special treatment other than what any other star NBA player receives.

Any human will be slowed when he rightly fears being injured on every play. An otherworldly talent like King James is being unfairly stifled by mediocrity run amok.

Hinrich, Gibson and Carlos Boozer!

If the LeBron Law becomes the rule of law in the NBA, Commissioner David Stern will rue the day he let this go unchecked.

He’ll be the NBA’s Nero if LeBron blows out a knee on a nasty foul on a breakaway. What if he snaps and breaks his hand firing a punch after landing with a sickening thud for the third, fourth or fifth time in a game?

True fans don’t want to win because LeBron James was injured by an overzealous defender. Or a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning was KO’d by a late hit to the knee. Or Albert Pujols was beaned. The big losers will be the fans ... even those legions who hate James and the Heat. LeBron Jameses don’t come along too often. You may not see another one in your lifetime.


Michael Muldoon is a columnist for The Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Mass.