In Jackie MacMullan's book, When the Game was Ours, she tells the story of how the friendship between Dennis Johnson and Magic Johnson changed after DJ was traded to Boston for Rick Robey in the summer of 1983. Before the trade, the two were fast friends. They dined together. They worked out together. They took a genuine interest in each other, and made time for each other when visiting the other's home turf. Many believed they were the two best guards in the NBA, and so it was only natural that they develop a close bond.
After the trade?
The relationship was pretty much, hello, I'll talk to you later.
Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said the same thing about their friendship after Walton became a Celtic in 1985. An Auerbachian clipper blew them in opposite directions. It wasn't until the mid-1990s before they started talking again.
I totally understand this.
And so does LeBron James.
That's why he refused to shake hands with Magic players after the Cavs lost to Orlando in the playoffs last season, and James remained unrepentant. This is how sports used to be. I still remember when the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Los Angeles Rams during the regular season in the 1970s. Roger Staubach, the Cowboys' quarterback, did make a point of stopping at mid-field to talk with several Rams' players after the game. But not to shake their hands. He told them that he would "see you jokers again in the playoffs," and if he were them, he wouldn't be looking forward to it.
This is what sports is all about, or at least it used to be. Now when a player like James attempts to explain that sports is a competition, with winning being the only object, and sometimes losing puts you in a less than hospitable mood, people seemed confused, offended even.
What the hell happened?