I received a photo, taken by a reader, that shows LeBron James sitting in the stands at the championship game of the Fab 48 AAU boys basketball tournament July 24 at Bishop Gorman High School. He was not surrounded by go-go dancers spelling out K-I-N-G on giant placards. He was not being served champagne by a waiter suspended from the ceiling by guy-wires, like Peter Pan or George Reeves.
He was surrounded, instead, by teenage boys black and white. They were smiling. So was LeBron. This was not a posed shot, mind you. LeBron looked all the world like Michael Jackson, were The Gloved One still alive and could he fly though the air without the aid of guy-wires and slam dunk a basketball.
I guess it was the night before or the night before that when James was surrounded by go-go dancers and was being served champagne from high altitude at Tao nightclub in the Venetian, something you might have discovered by reading a blog on ESPN.com, provided you can read like Evelyn Wood.
ESPN yanked the story off its website almost immediately, claiming its blogger misrepresented himself and shouldn’t have acquired “news” that way. I think this is the politically correct way of saying “we sleep with LeBron, and we don’t want to soil the sheets.”
That’s one issue. The second is that if your thought process is triggered by a reaction originating at the knee, it might have occurred that being surrounded by go-go dancers and being served champagne from high altitude is no way for a role model or even a self-professed K-I-N-G to conduct himself in public.
I know I did.
But in fairness to LeBron (did I just type those words?), it should be pointed out and perhaps even underlined with a lime-green or hot-pink Hi-Liter that he is not the first red-blooded American male — a single male, I might add — to have acquired a vast amount of fame and/or fortune and indulge himself in such a manner.
Before casting any more aspersions on King James and the bible by which he conducts himself, consider what you know now and what you didn’t know then. Then ask yourself if you still would consider Mickey Mantle a hero or hold President Kennedy in such high regard.
If the answer is “no,” you can continue to cast aspersions.
If the answer is “yes,” you might want to ignore the next knee-jerk reaction.
■ BOB KUSTRA: The Boise State president says the culture at the University of Idaho is “nasty” and “inebriated” and he doesn’t care if the Broncos play the Vandals in football again. If he thinks Moscow is inhospitable, just wait until he gets a taste of glasnost in the end-zone seats at Sam Boyd Stadium.
■ BOBBY HAUCK: Other than the hotels that host them and the pretzel companies that put out the big bowls so the media will have something free to eat, I don’t see who benefits from these conference media days when a teleconference and B-roll could accomplish the same thing at a fraction of the cost. But that was before UNLV’s new football coach showed up for Mountain West media days not wearing socks.
■ J.P. ARENCIBIA: The 51s slugger leads the Pacific Coast League with 30 home runs, which is pretty remarkable, considering the baseball soothsayers and that Bill James guy were ready to give up on him during spring training. It’s even more remarkable considering the minor leagues insist he wear a giant batting helmet that makes him look like The Great Gazoo from “The Flintstones.”
■ NEW ERA: The baseball cap people proudly proclaimed in a news release that it has been “the Official Batting Practice Cap of Minor League Baseball since 2005.” Those who throw batting-practice fastballs in the New York-Penn League no doubt are impressed.
■ MINOR LEAGUE DRUG TEST: A scientist and other experts say a blood test that baseball plans to use on minor league players will detect the presence of human growth hormone for only six to 12 hours. So if the wind is blowing out in Sacramento, they had better test 51s pitchers during the middle of the sixth.
■ RICK PITINO: Maybe it’s a good thing then-UNLV athletic director Charlie Cavagnaro’s minions left Joanne Pitino standing on the curb at the airport following her visit to Las Vegas when hubby Rick was thinking about becoming the Rebels basketball coach. Put another way, although Lon Kruger never has beaten Kentucky on national TV, the last time I saw him in a trendy, upscale restaurant, he was having a Cobb salad.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352.