The Sound of (LeBron James’) Silence During the NBA Playoffs

Opinion writer explains the 'breath of fresh air' right now for those hit in the past with athletes' political opinions

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“No one dared disturb the sound of silence” is what Paul Simon wrote in 1963. And if you tune in to the enthralling 2019 NBA playoffs for a moment, you’ll realize what you are not hearing right now.

You’re not hearing LeBron James. At all. But he’s not quiet because an opposing defense has shut him down or shut him up.

He’s quiet because he’s not there.

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He’s on his expensive couch in Los Angeles texting Barack Obama about his displeasure with President Donald Trump.

Guess what else paying customers who are fans of the 29 other teams that don’t have LeBron James on them are not hearing? The endless debate over whether a player with only three championship rings is the “greatest ever.” Spoiler: He’s not.

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Just look at the top 10 pro-basketball players who have multiple rings. They start at six — not three. Michael Jordan has six. Or if I am being kind, they start with Kobe Bryant at five rings. The great Bill Russell finished with 11. The game may have changed since Russell’s era — but that’s still nearly four times the number of rings. Heck, even Kurt Rambis has four.

And you’re not hearing the NBA’s social justice warrior-in-chief opine about NFL owners, and about the current president, and you don’t hear the odious Chris Cillizza praising LeBron for being so darn insightful. Because LeBron James isn’t in the playoffs. Magic Johnson abruptly quit his post as president of the Los Angeles Lakers, leaving a cast of misfits for LeBron James to try and trade at some point.

I’m a Philadelphia 76ers fan — so there’s nothing more enjoyable than watching this purple-and-gold train derail.

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We’re also not hearing from sports pundits who suddenly think they’re God’s gift to politics. We’re not hearing Bob Costas blow up halftime shows with his solemn odes to gun control. Bob is quiet. So is Keith Olbermann.

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Where is Spike Lee? Where is Colin Kaepernick to bring his league-damaging protests from the sideline to courtside? Even Jimmy Kimmel has managed to keep his trap shut during the playoffs so far. Maybe getting schooled by Ted Cruz taught him a little humility when it comes to sports. Probably not — but we appreciate his silence anyway.

This year, the NBA playoffs are a breath of fresh air. LeBron’s Lakers missed out, which means Golden State may have an easier path to win the West (again). But the playoffs have been a showcase for teams like Denver, Portland and Utah that rarely get national TV exposure.

In the East, we’ll have a new team in the finals this year. The Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors looked tough knocking off power clubs full of stars in Philadelphia and Boston. We’ll also have a new Eastern Conference champ because, like the LA Lakers, the Cleveland Cavaliers are sitting at home.

This is huge. We’ve seen the same monotonous pairing of Golden State vs. Cleveland in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 — and LeBron turning pundit on his TV show at the same time. With Cleveland out, that won’t happen this year.

Without anyone carrying water for the social justice warriors, and without the same old story line of Cleveland vs. Golden State, guess what we have?

We have basketball! The playoffs! Anything can happen! Maybe Portland can knock off the Splash Brothers and KD? Doubtful.

One thing we know for sure is that fans can sit back and enjoy the games — without static from an egomaniac who calls himself “King.”

A.J. Rice is CEO of Publius PR, a communications firm in Washington, D.C. Rice is a brand manager, star-whisperer and auteur media influencer. Find out more at publiuspr.com.

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