What happens in Vegas… ESPN pulls unflattering LeBron James story

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Thumbnail image for d-wade-king-james.jpgUPDATE: 3:48 pm: CNBC’s Darren Rovell got this comment from ESPN:

ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz tells us why the LeBron Vegas story was
pulled: “The story should have never been published. The draft was
inadvertently put on the server before going through the usual editorial
process. We are in the midst of looking into the matter.”

Sounds a lot like spin. Not that we expected anything else.

3:00 pm: We woke up this morning to a fleshed out picture of the life an influences on LeBron James — ESPNLosAngeles’ Arash Markazi was a part of LeBron’s entourage and followed him around for a night in Vegas, living life on the inside, then filed the report.

We’d link to it, but ESPN pulled it. What happens in Vegas did not stay in Vegas, and somebody didn’t like it. The story was taken down. However, there are stored versions all over the Web, such as at Deadspin or Black Sports Online.

LeBron sought out a brighter spotlight to stand in, but he may be finding the realty is not as much fun as the dream.

Read the article, it is a fantastic bit or lifestyle writing. And you do not live LeBron’s lifestyle. The groupies around, the pretending to dribble and shoot jumpers as you walk through a Vegas casino as people stare, the five bodyguards to keep people at a distance, the bottles popping, the life of a true VIP in Vegas. That and LeBron getting six figures for having his name attached to the weekend party in Vegas.

He comes off as immature, rich with a huge ego and acting like the world revolves around him. Not sure that any of this is a surprise, or really all that out of the ordinary for what passes for ordinary in Vegas. Still, the details paint an unflattering picture. Especially when you think of Kobe busting it in a gym somewhere to get better and Kevin Durant resting up for another day of Team USA practices at the same time.

What is interesting is that ESPN pulled the story not long after it first went up. We don’t know what was considered on or off the record, or why the story was pulled, but I don’t see what was so offensive as to lead to the story needing to be yanked. I know Markazi and he is a good reporter and writer, the kind of guy who gets things right.

One’s mind jumps to what seems the most likely possibility — LeBron and his people freaked out after reading it and then demanded it be pulled. They probably threatened libel. And ESPN obliged, not wanting the fight. Sort of like Nike freaking out about video of LeBron getting dunked on at his camp.

Don’t want to leap to that conclusion, but if you’re a fan of Occam’s razor, where the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, then LeBron freaking out makes the most sense. ESPN backing down shows where the calls are made — money gets to ride in the limo, journalistic integrity can wait at the curb. But we will see what the spin is when it comes.

Either way, go read the story.

Double number retirement fitting for Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.

He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.

He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.

He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.

His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.

Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:

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So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.

Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.

He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24

Warriors will watch Kobe Bryant’s numbers get retired, Lakers might not

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The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.

The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:

“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.

“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”

Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.

But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.

Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.

After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.

In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.

George Hill nails half-court buzzer-beater with less than a second to shoot (video)

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I bet this made George Hill happier.

The Kings still losing to the Raptors, 108-93, probably didn’t, though.

Phil Jackson to miss Kobe Bryant’s jersey retirement Monday

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For one last night, Staples Center will belong to Kobe Bryant on Monday.

Sure, the Warriors are in town to take on the Lakers, but Monday night the Lakers are retiring Kobe Bryant’s numbers — both 8 and 24 — in a halftime ceremony. It’s been the hottest ticket in Los Angeles, with celebrities, luminaries, and regular Lakers fans shelling out a lot of cash to see the Laker legend be honored.

Except, Phil Jackson will not be there, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Jackson has been in touch with Bryant in advance of the ceremony to congratulate him, sources said. But he was unable to travel from his Montana home for the ceremony in Los Angeles.

No reason was given (nor does one need to be made public, that’s between Kobe and Jackson).

Jackson coached Kobe to all five of his NBA titles, and while their relationship had its ups and downs — remember Jackson called out Kobe as almost uncoachable in one of his books — they remain close.