Game 6 feet under: No love for LeBron, the District's villain
It was Washington, D.C. vs. LeBron James, and it was fun while it lasted, wasn't it? Nothing like a good hate to get the juices flowing, and by game time last night at Verizon Center, Wizards fans had the blood of hate and injustice rushing through their veins. By the end of the 105-88 beating at the hands of the Cavaliers, eliminating Washington from the playoffs, that blood still flowed. Hate and injustice were still the only reasons to care after the Wizards' disappointing performance in such a key home game. The hate of LeBron, fueled by the superstar's whining about being played so tough, combined with the fact that he is indeed great, is perhaps the most intense we have seen in this city since the Cowboys-Redskins glory days. Maybe Danny White, or maybe even as far back as Roger Staubach, but you would be hard-pressed to find an athlete that the most powerful city in the world rose up against with such animosity as Washington did against LeBron. If the Wizards had somehow managed to win last night and then again in a Game 7, the city would have continued to embrace the playoff run, but it would have been missing the villain. There would have been a player singled out with each series, but none with all the baggage LeBron carries for opposing fans - the image of being protected and pampered by an NBA with credibility problems. The Cavaliers have left town, but LeBron will likely remain the most despised athlete in this city for years to come. When asked after the game if he had any response to the animosity, LeBron said, "We advanced. We won the series 4-2. That speaks louder than anything I can say about the fans here." He was already the target of the boos from the fans at Verizon Center every time he touched the ball, and the focus of "Crybaby James" signs that popped up in the arena. Then, as game time approached, fans learned the league had suspended Wizards forward Darius Songaila for last night's game as a result of his slap in the face of LeBron when both players got tangled up in the first half of Game 5. It appeared to be an accident, as Songaila seemed to be trying to get loose of the arm lock between himself and LeBron. But NBA warden Stu Jackson determined it was enough to suspend Songaila, and all that did was feed into the notion in Washington - and throughout the league - that the league was protecting LeBron, and that if the roles were reversed, there was no way Jackson would have suspended LeBron. So fans came to arena armed with their "Free Darius" signs, and a chip on their shoulders that it was poor little Washington, D.C., against the entire NBA. The Wizards did all they could to fuel the persecution by introducing Songaila separately in the pregame ceremonies, with the sidelined Gilbert Arenas holding up a Songaila jersey. LeBron finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists, while his team scored about 50 FOL points - Fear of LeBron points, where his teammates benefit from the opposing team's fear of anything that LeBron will do with or without the ball. The NBA's golden child will move on to the next round, but in a league where questions should be raised with every call and decision in the wake of the Tim Donaghy referee betting scandal, it is developing a LeBron credibility issue. The season ends in Washington with the perception that NBA commissioner David Stern is LeBron James' godfather. LeBron was asked if he felt Songaila's suspension was warranted. "I am not sitting in the front office with David and Stu Jackson looking at the video tape," he answered. He calls him David. How nice. Washington hates LeBron for that, as well as for being so great, and for bouncing their team from the playoffs for three straight years. That hate will have to keep the juices flowing in this town until next season.