The Washington Post

NBA Finals: Lebron James scores playoff career-low 8 points in Game 4 loss

Jun 08, 2011

Esquire sports reporter Scott Raab, who has a longtime "torrid, turbulent affair" with Lebron James, chatted about the NBA finals and Lebron, both on and off the court. Raab is the author of "The Whore of Akron," a book in works about Lebron James. Submit your questions and comments now!

Related: NBA Finals: LeBron James's disappearing act helps Mavericks' show go on

Welcome, one and all. I'm Scott Raab. Born and raised in Cleveland. My book, The Whore of Akron: One Man's Search for the Soul of LeBron James, is scheduled for release on November 15.

What's going on with your boy?

Hard to say what happened to him last night. But it was eerily similar to what happened to him against the Celtics in Game 5 of last year's playoffs. It's like he turns into a ghost on the court.

Why do you hate Lebron so much?

I think my feelings about him are more nuanced than you might think. I think the word 'hate' is overused in matters like this. The only answer I can provide in this context is:

1. His performance against the Celtics in last year's playoffs was dishonorable.

2. His decision to leave the Cavaliers was a betrayal of his roots in Northeast Ohio, and of the fans there.

3. The way he handled The Decision did far more damage than folks not from the area could ever grasp.

4. His behavior this entire season has largely been boorish.

Scott, Last year when LBJ disappeared in Game 5, a host of rumors arose about his poor perfiormance. After watching him disappear again last night, do you feel like these crucial moments cause him to seize up, choke. Or is this a symptom of him being PO'd about something in the background, a blow to his ego, in this case the growing realization that Wade is the most crucial player on the team, not him.

I think LeBron's disappearance in last night's game was partly due to the fact that Wade is having a great series. I don't mean jealousy/ego, but genuine confusion about his role when he's clearly playing 2nd fiddle.

Crediting LeBron James with 8 points is generous. 6 at the most, as 2 came from the technical foul called on Rick Carlisle after complaining to the officials about James' blatant flop. Which brings me to the question. When did this sort of behavior become acceptable in the NBA? International soccer, notorious for this being part of the game, has cracked down on it with yellow cards. The NHL has a diving penalty. NFL and NCAA call unsportsmanlike conduct. LeFlop is rewarded with a trip to the line.

The NBA is going to have to figure out a way to deal with the issue. The flopping, the constant ref-baiting, the inability or unwillingness of the officials to put a stop to such BS: At some point -- and we've reached that point -- it soils the quality of the product. Maybe the worst thing about this Heat team from a purist's point of view is their embrace of everything that makes pro wrestling such a clown show.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has been portrayed as a wingnut in light of his post-Decision letter. Will that behavior keep other players away, and more important, how do you think he will (would have) done things differently?

I'm a lifelong Cleveland fan, and I honestly think that Dan Gilbert is a great owner. I felt The Letter was a high point in the history of Cleveland sports. I don't believe that it was some calculated PR gesture or anything like that; Gilbert had watched the Cavs quit on the court against the Celtics, had been frozen out by James and his business team for six weeks prior to The Decision, and felt -- rightly, in my mind -- personally betrayed and insulted. You can argue that a more mature, evolved, or balanced human being never would have published that letter, but the passion and commitment that make Gilbert a great owner are what drove him to release it, and I'm fine with that.

I don't think Gilbert's letter will have any impact whatsoever on the Cavs' ability to attract players. Cleveland was, is, and always will be a tough sell, due to reasons beyond Gilbert's control.

I don't believe Gilbert has any regrets about The Letter. I think the things he will/would've done differently involve the ways the Cavs let one player essentially dominate the entire organization.

As a Clevelander, have you already resolved that LeBron and the Heat very likely will win the NBA championship this year? (Modell won a Super Bowl after all.) And where does that leave us as fans?

I picked the Heat in 6, and I still believe they'll win the title. I'm heading to Miami on Sunday to rub my own nose in it. I console myself with the belief that a Heat title will be good for the book I'm writing, but it still leaves me feeling sad and angry.


I'm not sure anybody who's not a Cleveland fan understands the nature of the experience. For 50 years, in every sport, not only have Cleveland fans suffered ultimate defeat, they've experienced a series of awful defeats, on and off the court and playing field. Two generations of Cleveland fans have known nothing but failure, dashed hope, and despair. Where that leaves us is where we have been since 12/27/64: waiting forever for next year.


Have you seen any of Buzz Bissinger's comments on Lebron James and, if so, what are your reactions to his strong opinions?

Buzz is sharp and funny, and he has his own history with LeBron. He seems to have come to terms with his own feelings about co-writing James's autobiography, and with his prior dismissal of James as a player who couldn't succeed under pressure. I think he may yet be proved wrong, but I respect his opinion.

If memory serves, the Heat prevented you from attending games as a member of the press as a result of your LBJ criticism. Has your status in NBA circles changed? Do you have any dealings with anyone in LeBron's camp? If so, what are those interactions like?

The NBA itself refused to grant me the league credential they grant to hundreds of guys who duct-tape ESPN's cables. Why? You'll have to ask Tim Frank at the league office; he never was able to give me a clear and honest explanation.


That left it up to the Heat, which put them in an unfair spot. They granted me a single-game credential once and once only. After I tweeted nasty tweets at LeBron, they told me I was no longer welcome at their building and would not be credentialed going forward.


I have been credentialed by other NBA teams, and I have been turned down by others. Not a problem -- my book was never predicated on access to locker rooms or practices. It's a fan's memoir as much as it is a basketball book. And nobody, including ESPN, has any genuine access to LeBron James. The NBA and the Miami Heat apparently want to keep it that way.

Nice lede there! As a Bulls fan, I'm certainly not a fan of LeBron, but to label him as boorish, dishonorable, etc. is really taking things too far. He's a young kid (21), who wants to win, and like a lot of sports prodigies he's got a lot to learn. So he wanted to leave Cleveland and join a championship-caliber organization... what's the big deal? Do you REALLY think he was obligated to stay, given he wasn't provided the kind of supporting cast it takes to win championships?

I've spent the past two seasons up close, before and after The Decision. Calling LeBron boorish is an understatement. Arguing about a supporting cast or a 'championship-caliber organization' is a waste of time; plenty of pundits thought the Cavs were good enough to win it all the past two seasons, and the fact that they did not is hardly proof that they were doomed to failure going forward.





Do you think LeBron was honestly surprised by the reaction to the Decision? And was he so tone-deaf to not understand how bad an idea it was or does he have such an ego that he didn't care? Basically, is he an egomaniac or guy who just got some really bad advice?

I think he was surprised as hell to find himself being booed in cities that never were in the running for his services. His tone-deafness is profound: Just a few days ago, he basically told the world once again that his failures in Cleveland were all the fault of the other guys -- the players whom he called his family for years. He does this sort of thing all the time: if he collapses in the Finals in Miami and gets booed, don't be shocked if he tells the press how spoiled the fans are, just as he did in Cleveland after Game 5 against the Celtics last year. The next time LeBron James holds himself accountable for failure in any genuine sense will be the first time. 


As for the advice he gets, I don't think he listens to anyone willing to tell him what he doesn't wish to hear.

Aside from LeBron, can you elaborate on how your book tells the sad tale of Cleveland sports from a fan's perspective?

I still have my ticket stub to the 1964 NFL Championship Game, the last time a Cleveland team won it all. I was 12, old enough to feel all the joy and pride that came with the title. Cleveland was a town that thought well of itself then, a big city where folks had good jobs, a place with a positive national identity. I'm not writing a sociological treatise; I'm telling the story of what it has felt like to see the city and its teams suffer over so many years.

Have you ever been contacted by ESPN to appear on any of their puppet shows and give a counterpoint to their myopic hard line apologist stance?

Never. Ever. But Dan LeBatard has had me on his Miami radio show a few times, for which I'm grateful.

Do you think that LeBron's bad personality traits are more of a product of his turbulent upbringing or because he has been surrounded by "Yes Men" his entire adolescent and adult life?

I see LeBron as a traitor, not a monster. He isn't a simple guy. He isn't easy to read. He isn't stupid. He grew up with no father and an unreliable mother, and he became a national star at the age of 16. That's a fairly toxic mix in terms of stability and inner security -- things that money and fame can't buy. Plenty of folks with far more childhood resources have a hard time seeking and heeding reality checks. I've written dozens of celebrity profiles over the years for Esquire, including stories about folks like Phil Spector and Robert Downey Jr. LeBron in many ways is just another entertainer with a fragile ego and little contact with reality.

What would it take for you or CLE to finally forgive Lebron or it that something that will never happen? He said in an interview after the Decision that it'd be an honor to return to CLE later in his career. Complete BS?

I've thought about this a lot. I compare it to soccer -- to the lunatic passion and fervor surrounding an event like the World Cup, with billions of people whipped into a nationalistic frenzy over a sport. Two generations of Cleveland fans have never known a championship, and in LeBron James they saw one of their own, a native son who turned out to be the greatest basketball player in the NBA, who told them that he understood their misery and hunger, who said that he would not go chasing championships elsewhere -- and who not only decided to leave, but also left after choking and quitting in the playoffs -- and announced his departure on a ludicrous ESPN special.


If the world's greatest soccer player did that to his homeland, how soon would he be forgiven? Never.

Are there any comments you've made about LBJ that, looking back, you think might have crossed the line?

Yes. I came up reading Hunter S. Thompson and the National Lampoon in the early 1970s, which does not excuse but may help explain my approach to journalism. When it comes to issues of taste and professional decorum, I have  issues.

This is the WORST case scenario for me an ex Clevelander. First it was watching the Marlins beat the Indians in the World Series. Now this! Can you enlighten others around the country about the complete laziness/band wagon jumping/totally uneducated about sport/completely undeserving fans of South Florida teams (I'm including all fans of the 3 big colleges as well) are. Did I mention I'm bitter? .

I'm bitter, too. I still wonder at how little James understood the fact that one title with the Cavs would've cemented his legacy forever in the annals of NBA history. This was a player who was cheered by fans in every city the Cavs visited, and who was seen by everyone (except Skip Bayless, bless his soul) as a hero-in-waiting, a Moses who'd lead his tribe to the Promised Land.


Instead, he goes to Miami, where they have to hide the empty seats for playoff games, and bribe fans to show up on time, and instruct them on how to cheer. I've grown fond of the city, and I've met some hardcore Heat fans who also are good folks, but by and large the same things that make South Florida a cool place to live mitigate against folks investing much of their time and energy in spectator sports.

Im pretty sure as of now, LeBron is being paid 14.5 million dollars to be a defensive specialist that lets Jason Terry blow by him in the 4th quarter. Your thoughts?

I only hope we get to see the same scenario play out twice more. Just twice more.

Gotta roll. Thanks to all. Come visit me at,  and Go Mavs!

In This Chat
Scott Raab
Born in Cleveland in 1952, Scott Raab is a graduate of Cleveland State University and the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, where he became the only Hawkeye ever to earn both an MFA and All-Big 10 status (second team) as a kick-return specialist.

Raab fell into journalism in Iowa City. His op-ed columns ran in the Daily Iowan and Cedar Rapids Gazette; he also hosted a weekly talk show on KRUI-FM. His first national magazine feature story, a profile of wrestling legend Dan Gable, ran in Sport in 1988.

In 1991, Raab moved to Philadelphia. He began writing for GQ in 1992 and joined Esquire in 1997. His work has been anthologized frequently, appearing in both Best American Sports Writing and Best Food Writing. His first book, Real Hollywood Stories, is a collection of celebrity profiles. He’s now working on a memoir about his torrid, turbulent affair with LeBron James, to be published early in 2012. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and son.
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